A new report from the Wall Street Journal paints a very different picture of Activision Blizzard boss Bobby Kotick than the executive has made for himself, alleging Kotick had knowledge of many sexual assault and harassment claims at his studios. Additionally, the report said Kotick did not notify the company's board of directors after it reached an out-of-court settlement with an employee who accused a former supervisor of rape.
Documents including memos and emails shown to the Wall Street Journal reportedly indicate Kotick's knowledge of other accusations made against employees within Activision Blizzard. They also suggest that employees forced out for allegations were still publicly praised and coworkers were asked to not speak out.
The report also alleges that Kotick threatened to kill an assistant over voicemail in 2006, which an Activision spokesperson said was in jest. It said he, not Activision Blizzard executive and former Bush administration official Frances Townsend, was responsible for drafting a statement on the ongoing harassment and culture investigation that Kotick himself later called "tone-deaf." The internal statement had been attributed to Townsend.
Jen Oneal, who briefly served as co-lead at Blizzard, reportedly sent an email to Activision's legal team in which she said she was sexually harassed earlier in her time at the company. She also said a party Kotick himself attended in 2007 featured "scantily clad women [dancing] on stripper poles" and that female employees were encouraged to drink more. Oneal herself was named co-lead following the departure of former Blizzard J. Allen Brack, who left in the wake of allegations several months ago. Oneal just recently announced she was leaving, and said the decision was the best one for her family.
In response to the report, which includes several more allegations and is available in full above, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson provided the following statement to GameSpot:
“We are disappointed in the Wall Street Journal’s report, which presents an inaccurate and misleading view of Activision Blizzard and our CEO. Instances of sexual misconduct that were brought to his attention were acted upon. The WSJ ignores important changes underway to make this the industry’s most welcoming and inclusive workplace and it fails to account for the efforts of thousands of employees who work hard every day to live up to their--and our--values."
The statement also addressed what the company is currently doing in the wake of the allegations.
"The constant desire to be better has always set this company apart. Which is why, at Mr. Kotick’s direction, we have made significant improvements, including a zero-tolerance policy for inappropriate conduct. And it is why we are moving forward with unwavering focus, speed, and resources to continue increasing diversity across our company and industry and to ensure that every employee comes to work feeling valued, safe, respected, and inspired. We will not stop until we have the best workplace for our team.”
Kotick himself also released an internal video--transcribed on Activision Blizzard's corporate site--calling the report an "inaccurate and misleading view" of the company and himself. Following this statement's release, the ABetterABK employee group announced it would be staging a walkout until Kotick has been removed as CEO. The company's board of directors released its own statement, saying Kotick "appropriately addressed" the issues. Kotick himself is a member of the board of directors.
We have instituted our own Zero Tolerance Policy. We will not be silenced until Bobby Kotick has been replaced as CEO, and continue to hold our original demand for Third-Party review by an employee-chosen source. We are staging a Walkout today. We welcome you to join us.— ABetterABK 💙 ABK Workers Alliance (@ABetterABK) November 16, 2021
Bobby Kotick has led Activision, later renamed Activision Blizzard, since 1991. Prior to the report, he agreed to take a massive pay cut, and the company ended its mandatory arbitration practice for employees.