Report: Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick knew of sexual harassment claims

Bobby Kotick Activision Blizzard
Bobby Kotick Activision Blizzard (Image credit: Activision Blizzard / Windows Central)

Update, 12:55 p.m. ET: Activision Blizzard shared a message from Bobby Kotick about the new allegations.

Update 1:20 p.m. ET: Workers walking out in response to WSJ report.

Update, 2:55 p.m. ET: The board is standing by Kotick, per a press release.

Update, Nov. 17 (3:28 pm ET): Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan says he is "disheartened and frankly stunned" by the recent Activision Blizzard news.

What you need to know

  • Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick reportedly worked to keep sexual harassment claims quiet, per the Wall Street Journal.
  • Kotick allegedly knew of several instances in which employees were accused of sexually harassing colleagues.
  • Kotick also reportedly threatened to murder an employee, which Activision refers to as "hyperbolic."

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick knew of sexual harassment claims, including allegations of rape, and worked to keep the situations quiet, the Wall Street Journal reports. According to the report, Kotick did not inform the Activision Blizzard board of directors of multiple instances where employees accused workplace superiors of sexual harassment. One of the accused is Dan Bunting, co-studio head of Treyarch, who Wall Street Journal reports has now left the company.

Kotick also reportedly threatened an employee, saying he'd kill her. An Activision spokesperson reportedly referred to his statements as "obviously hyperbolic and innapropriate." Activision Blizzard is currently facing a lawsuit, alleging multiple instances of sexist workplace behavior and abuse.

Former Blizzard co-lead Jen Oneal, who left the company months after being promoted, was reportedly paid less than her male coworkers even after being promoted. Oneal claims to have been sexually harassed during her time at Blizzard, while also recounting a story in which a party held at an Activision studio, attended by Kotick, featured women dancing on stripper poles, while other women at the party were encouraged to drink more. Oneal also reportedly sent an email to Activision legal, expressing a lack of faith in the company.

Kotick previously announced that he'd be taking a pay cut, while announcing company-wide changes at Activision Blizzard, including a zero tolerance harassment policy and working to increase the number of women and non-binary people employed at the company, which the ABetterABK workers' collective referred to as a "win."

Update, 12:55 p.m. ET — CEO Bobby Kotick reiterates zero tolerance policy for inappropriate behavior

Following the WSJ story, Activision Blizzard published a transcript from a video message sent by Bobby Kotick to employees. In it, he reiterated the company's "new zero tolerance policy for inappropriate behavior" and that he is dedicated to helping achieve an inclusive environment with the company.

While he didn't directly address the allegations, which say that he knew about a lot of the behavior and perpetrated some of it himself, he discussed the importance of change for Activision Blizzard. Here is an excerpt from the transcript:

I want to say two important things about this:First, we are incredibly fortunate to have the most talented people in our industry all so committed to constant improvement. And I share this commitment.The second thing I want to say is that anyone who doubts my conviction to be the most welcoming, inclusive workplace doesn't really appreciate how important this is to me.Creativity and inspiration thrives best in a safe, welcoming, respectful environment. There is no substitute for that. And staying true to our values, without exceptions, is the best way to retain our talent and to attract the new talent we need to achieve our great potential.As I have made clear, we are moving forward with a new zero tolerance policy for inappropriate behavior -- and zero means zero. Any reprehensible conduct is simply unacceptable.We have a chance to further enhance our culture and be the example other companies will follow. And we are so incredibly fortunate. Connecting and engaging the world through joy and fun is a powerful mission. Accomplishing this in a welcoming, inclusive workplace ensures we will achieve our mission with excellence.

You can read the rest of it here.

Update 1:20 p.m. ET — Workers stage impromptu walkout in response to WSJ report

The ABK Workers Alliance, a collective of workers inside Activision Blizzard King that have been working with the company to institute changes, announced they are staging a walkout at the company in response to the WSJ report.

The collective reiterated the call for leadership to listen a key part of their demands, which involved holding a third-party review chosen by employees, and called for Kotick's immediate resignation. This is the second time since the lawsuit was filed in July that workers have walked out on the job. Hundreds of employees lined up outside Blizzard Entertainment to bring attention to those demands.

Update, 2:55 p.m. ET — The board is standing with Kotick

In a press release, the board of directors confirmed that it is standing by Kotick.

"The Board remains confident that Bobby Kotick appropriately addressed workplace issues brought to his attention," the press release reads.

Update, Nov. 17 (3:29 pm ET)* — PlayStation head criticizes Activision Blizzard

Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan criticized Activision Blizzard for this recent news, per Bloomberg, stating that he was "disheartened and frankly stunned" by the news, adding "We do not believe their statements of response properly address the situation."

Samuel Tolbert
Freelance Writer

Samuel Tolbert is a freelance writer covering gaming news, previews, reviews, interviews and different aspects of the gaming industry, specifically focusing on Xbox and PC gaming on Windows Central. You can find him on Twitter @SamuelTolbert.