Activision Blizzard workers call for CEO departure

·2-min read
Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, has defended his handling of harassment complaints, as some employees staged a walkout calling for him to go (AFP/Drew Angerer)

The chief of Activision Blizzard on Tuesday defended his handling of harassment complaints as a group of workers at the video game company called for his departure.

A walkout and a call for Activision CEO Bobby Kotick to leave the company came in the wake of a Wall Street Journal report that he has for years been looped into reports of abuses that included an allegation of rape, but did not share all that he knew with the board of directors.

Some 150 workers took part in a walkout at the California company, joined by colleagues who halted working remotely in solidarity, according to posts shared at an Activision Blizzard workers alliance account at Twitter.

"It's past time for Bobby (Kotick) to step down," read a tweet by the @ABetterABK account.

The Activision Blizzard board voiced support for Kotick's leadership in a message responding to recent stories in the media.

"The board remains confident that Bobby Kotick appropriately addressed workplace issues brought to his attention," it said in a post at the company website.

An Activision spokesperson responding to an AFP inquiry said the Journal story presented a "misleading" view of the company and its chief executive.

"Instances of sexual misconduct that were brought to his attention were acted upon," the spokesperson told AFP.

"At Mr. Kotick’s direction, we have made significant improvements, including a zero-tolerance policy for inappropriate conduct."

The California-based maker of "Call of Duty" has been hit by employee protests, departures, and a state lawsuit alleging it enabled toxic workplace conditions and sexual harassment against women.

Kotick defended himself in a release, saying the article on Tuesday "paints an inaccurate" image of him.

"Anyone who doubts my conviction to be the most welcoming, inclusive workplace doesn't really appreciate how important this is to me," Kotick said in the release.

Activision early this month said it was delaying eagerly-awaited sequels to its hit Diablo and Overwatch franchises as it deals with upheaval due to workplace conditions.

"In recent months, we have taken actions that resulted in the departure of a number of individuals across the company," chief operating officer Daniel Alegre said on an earnings call.

"As we have worked with new leadership at Blizzard, and within the franchises themselves, particularly in certain key creative roles, it has become apparent that some of the Blizzard content planned for year will benefit from more development time to reach its full potential."

The company recently announced measures intended to strengthen anti-harassment protections.

Kotick has apologized and asked the board to slash his pay to the California legal minimum of $62,500 until the panel "has determined that we have achieved the transformational gender-related goals."

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