Bobby Kotick: Activision Blizzard employees call for boss to step down

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Bobby KotickImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Mr Kotick has been involved in Activision for two decades

Workers at game-development titan Activision Blizzard have staged a walkout, after reports chief executive Bobby Kotick had long been aware of harassment allegations.

The Wall Street Journal published an extensive investigation into the company, alleging Mr Kotick had "intervened" in at least one case.

Mr Kotick called the report "inaccurate and misleading".

He has not been personally accused of any misconduct amid the scandal.

Senior staff

The scandal erupted in July, when the company, which makes Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, was sued by the state of California over its "frat boy" culture.

And in the months since, the company has lost several key senior staff, including the namesake of one of its popular characters.

Separately, Blizzard head J Allen Brack stepped down in August, in the immediate aftermath of the revelations and following an initial staff walkout.

The newspaper's investigation said Mr Kotick had been aware of sexual-misconduct claims "for years", including at least one rape allegation as far back as 2018, but failed to report the matter to the board of directors.

It also alleged when a senior figure at one of the publisher's studios was accused of sexual harassment, and an internal investigation launched, Mr Kotick "intervened to keep him".

Mr Kotick is also accused of leaving a voicemail, in 2006, threatening to kill a female member of staff.

The Wall Street Journal also covered a previously reported incident, from 2007, when he was accused of firing a flight attendant on his private jet after she complained of sexual harassment by the pilot.

Both cases were settled out of court.

After the report was published, the ABK Workers Alliance - an employee's group for Activision's umbrella of companies - tweeted it was staging a walkout later that day and calling for Mr Kotick to step down.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Supporters estimated 150 people had gathered outside one of the main offices in Irvine, California, despite the short notice.

Games journalist Jason Schreier, whose reporting specialises in internal industry mechanics and working conditions, tweeted the turnout was "an impressive number, considering it was called two hours ago (and most employees are working from home)".

The Wall Street Journal's extensive report also alleged Jennifer Oneal, who stepped in to lead Blizzard amid the scandal, had sent an email, in September, detailing her personal experience of sexual harassment and expressing a lack of faith in the company to change its culture.

She also recalled a 2007 company event involving strippers, which Mr Kotick attended, the newspaper said.

Earlier this month, Activision announced Ms Oneal would leave the company at the end of the year.

'Inclusive workplace'

Mr Kotick pre-empted publication of the Wall Street Journal's report by sending a video message to all employees, on Tuesday, stressing his efforts to reform the company amid the scandal.

"There will, of course, be continued media attention about us and our industry over the next few months," he said, according to an official transcript.

"In fact, there's an article today that paints an inaccurate and misleading view of our company, of me personally, and my leadership.

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

'Zero-tolerance policy'

Activision said it was "disappointed in the Wall Street Journal's report, which presents a misleading view of Activision Blizzard and our CEO".

"Instances of sexual misconduct that were brought to his attention were acted upon," a representative said, alleging changes being made currently were being ignored.

"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."

The board of directors also issued a statement, saying: "The board remains confident that Bobby Kotick appropriately addressed workplace issues brought to his attention.

"The goals we have set for ourselves are both critical and ambitious.

"The board remains confident in Bobby Kotick's leadership, commitment and ability to achieve these goals."