There are major developments on the serious controversy that Activision Blizzard is in, due to the allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination. Yesterday an article in the Wall Street Journal reported that the company’s CEO , Bobby Kotick, was aware of the allegations of harassment and inappropriate behavior against women for years, but he never did anything. It is the first time that the scandal reaches the top of the management , and it does so in a rather direct and explicit. A couple of anecdotes directly concern Kotick:
- In 2006 one of his assistants said that Kotick harassed on multiple occasions, including an answering machine message threatening to kill her. The incident resulted in an out-of-court settlement.
- In 2007 he was reported by a stewardess of a private jet of which he was co-owner. The stewardess had accused the pilot of the plane of sexual harassment, and when Kotick learned of him he fired her. There are witnesses who say that, later in the legal process, Kotick threatened to “destroy” the stewardess. Kotick denies ever saying that. The case was closed with an out-of-court settlement in 2006 for 200. 000 dollars.
Games 27 Jul
In the report Kotick is also accused of personally writing the trace of Activision Blizzard’s first public statement , which was later signed by Frances Townsend. The statement was heavily criticized; in a second letter, this time signed by Kotick, the studio apologized for the first letter, expressly calling it “Townsend’s letter”, not mentioning that the trace was born from Kotick.
The report also talks about Jen Oneal, in charge of co-directing the studio alongside Mike Ybarra this summer: Oneal quit after just three months, and already after a month she had reported to HR that she had received sexual harassment and being paid less than Ybarra.
SONY ALSO WANTS CLARIFICATION
Those written so far are just some of the most striking examples of the Journal article. The full content depicts a situation so serious that it even convinced Jim Ryan, top manager of the PlayStation division , to intervene. Bloomberg reports this, citing an informative email sent by the manager to his employees. In the message, Ryan says he contacted Activision, deeming inadequate response letter published after the release of the Journal article. No retaliatory intentions have been made explicit, but it’s clear that going up against one of the biggest video game platforms in the world can’t bring good results for a studio. It is not known at the moment if other big exponents of the scene, such as Microsoft, Nintendo or Valve, have taken initiatives similar to those of Sony.
THE DEFENSE OF KOTICK AND THE STRIKE OF EMPLOYEES
Activision Blizzard has posted a note on its official website, signed directly by Kotick, defining the Journal article misleading and inaccurate the representation of him, of the company and of the management. The note said the company is working to improve employee conditions and that it has implemented a zero tolerance policy for undesirable behavior, while acknowledging that there is still a long way to go. The board of directors also issued a note of support towards Kotick. Meanwhile, Activision Blizzard employees went on strike after the article was released, and several investors are asking Kotick’s resignation.