New Microsoft Activision Blizzard leadership changes see CEO Kotick and others leave soon, Xbox fully take over

Bobby Kotick Activision Blizzard
(Image credit: Activision-Blizzard)

What you need to know

  • Two months after Microsoft successfully completed its $69b acquisition of Activision Blizzard King, CEO Bobby Kotick is stepping down from ABK on December 29, 2023. 
  • A new internal memo from Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer reveals that moving forward, top Activision Blizzard King executives will report to Microsoft Gaming president of Game Content and Studios Matt Booty.
  • Other chief ABK officers will answer to Microsoft Gaming executives to "continue to help us with the transition through March 2024," at which point they will presumably depart the firm as well.
  • Humam Sakhnini (Blizzard and King vice chair) and Lulu Meservey (ABK corporate affairs VP, CCO) are also leaving at the end of December and January, respectively, with the latter helping ABK Communications move to new leadership under Xbox's communications lead Kari Perez.

Two months after Microsoft successfully closed its $69b acquisition of the video game giant Activision Blizzard King for Xbox, its CEO, Bobby Kotick, is leaving the company on December 29, 2023. 

Kotick, who has served as Activision Blizzard CEO for nearly 33 years, will not be replaced directly; instead, an internal memo from Xbox head Phil Spencer reported by The Verge reveals that Microsoft is "aligning Activision Blizzard with Microsoft Gaming" by having Activision Blizzard vice chairman Thomas Tippl, Activision president Rob Kostich, Blizzard president Mike Ybarra, and King president Tjodolf Sommestad answer to Microsoft's president of Game Content and Studios Matt Booty.

Additionally, Activision Blizzard's chief administrative officer Brian Bulatao, chief people officer Julie Hodges, and chief legal officer Grant Dixton are now being overseen by Microsoft Gaming executives, and "will continue to help us with the transition through March 2024," at which point they will presumably depart the firm.

Blizzard and King vice chairman Humam Sakhnini and Activision Blizzard's corporate affairs vice president and chief communications officer Lulu Meservey are also stepping down at the end of December and January, respectively. Until her departure, Meservey will work with Xbox's communications lead Kari Perez "on a leadership transition plan for the ABK Communications team," which will report to Perez moving forward.

Microsoft Gaming executives like president of Game Content and Studios Matt Booty will now fully oversee Activision Blizzard King. (Image credit: Windows Central)

Spencer notes that "the leadership teams for Activision Publishing, Blizzard and King will remain in place, with no changes to the structure of how the studios and business units are run."

"For most of you, your day-to-day work will remain the same — it’s still business as usual in bringing more groundbreaking experiences to more players around the world. At the leadership level, these changes will provide the clarity and accountability that is necessary to achieve our ambitious goals and foster a culture that is welcoming, empowering, and committed to Gaming for Everyone," he continued. "We have an exciting 2024 lineup of games across Activision, Bethesda, Blizzard, King and Xbox Game Studios, and I know that we all look forward to sharing more details with our player communities when the time is right."

Kotick's exit and the aforementioned executive changes come after Microsoft reorganized its Xbox leadership in late October, with Matt Booty becoming the president of Game Content and Studios and Sarah Bond promoted to president of Xbox.

Notably, Kotick egress from Activision Blizzard King is a bit early. Previously, he indicated that he would leave the company in January 2024, but is now stepping down before the new year. In 2021, a lawsuit was filed against Activision Blizzard over allegations of sexual harassment, with accusations that Kotick knew of the misconduct and threatened to murder employee coming later that year.

"Under Bobby’s watch, Activision Blizzard in its many incarnations has been an enduring pillar of video games. Whether it’s Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Candy Crush Saga or any number of other titles, his teams have created beloved franchises and entertained hundreds of millions of players for decades," wrote Spencer near the start of his memo. "I’d like to thank Bobby — for his invaluable contributions to this industry, his partnership in closing the Activision Blizzard acquisition and his collaboration following the close — and I wish him and his family the very best in his next chapter."

Analysis: New year, new leadership

These leadership changes mark the start of a new Activision Blizzard under Xbox. (Image credit: Windows Central / Microsoft)

It's rather fitting that these major leadership changes are coming a little over a week before the turn of the new year, as with Bobby Kotick gone and Activision Blizzard's executives now reporting directly to Microsoft Gaming leads, a new era for the huge gaming firm has begun.

We knew Kotick's withdrawl was coming as soon as Microsoft's Activision Blizzard deal was finished, though the exit came a little faster than previously indicated. The imminent departure of a few other top executives from "the old guard" was more of a surprise, but perhaps they ended up not being a good fit for Microsoft's structure or culture. Activision Blizzard is certainly no stranger to criticism.

Above all else, I'm just glad to see that Microsoft is committed to making this transition as smooth as possible for ABK employees. Being merged with a colossal company like Microsoft is no doubt a very complicated process, so it's good that Phil Spencer and company are doing everything they can to make sure the "day-to-day work will remain the same," while also ensuring that important changes are made to "foster a culture that is welcoming, empowering, and committed to Gaming for Everyone."

Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.