After leaving work on Tuesday, Activision Blizzard employees are rallying to demand the resignation of CEO Bobby Kotick. More than 1,000 employees, in all studios and departments, have now signed the petition. The number of signatories continues to increase as the petition circulates.
“We, the undersigned, no longer have confidence in Bobby Kotick’s leadership as CEO of Activision Blizzard,” employees said Thursday.
The petition continues:
The information that has been revealed about his behaviors and practices in the management of our companies goes against the culture and integrity that we demand of our leaders and directly conflicts with the initiatives launched by our peers. We are asking that Bobby Kotick step down as CEO of Activision Blizzard and that shareholders be allowed to select the new CEO without input from Bobby, who we know holds a substantial share of shareholder voting rights.
Today, more than 500 current ABK employees and contractors signed a petition calling for the removal of Bobby Kotick as CEO https://t.co/QP9sOJ76bK
– ABetterABK ABK Workers Alliance (@ABetterABK) November 18, 2021
The push for Kotick’s removal comes after a new Wall Street Journal report revealed the extent of Kotick’s knowledge of employee misconduct and sexual harassment, as well as news of wage inequality among co – Blizzard executives Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra. Prior to her resignation, Oneal – Blizzard’s first female co-leader – was not offered the same salary as Ybarra, until she told the company she was stepping down.
Alongside those workers, a group of Activision Blizzard shareholders also called for the resignation of Kotick – and two longtime members of the board. These shareholders, who represent 4.8 million shares held out of Activision Blizzard’s total of 778.9 million shares, asked Kotick and board members Brian Kelly and Robert Morgado to retire. by December 31. The board of directors of Activision Blizzard, however, remains alongside the CEO. In a statement on Tuesday, a representative of the board said the group “remains confident in the leadership of Bobby Kotick.”
Several sources have expressed distrust of the current leadership of Activision Blizzard, as well as the board of directors, following a lawsuit filed this year by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. (Several prosecutions and investigations are ongoing, and one resolved, related to the public allegations.)
Activision Blizzard employs nearly 10,000 people, according to the company. This is not the first time Activision Blizzard employees have made requests to their employers. Thousands of current and former workers signed an open letter to executives in July after the lawsuit. Frustrated by the initial “deaf” response to the allegations, in which executives characterized the allegations as “distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past,” the workers demanded that their demands be met. Kotick responded to some requests in October, introducing a “new zero tolerance harassment policy” and forgoing the forced arbitration process the company uses to deal with complaints of sexual harassment and discrimination. Kotick also said at that time that he would accept a significant pay cut, reducing his annual salary from $ 875,000 to $ 62,500; it had already been cut by $ 1.5 million earlier in the year. The Journal reported that Activision Blizzard only announced the new measures after its reporters approached the company with questions related to Tuesday’s report.
Activision Blizzard employees told Polygon that the company’s denial of the Journal report goes back to the original response, which once again implies that all the claims are “distorted and false.”
“We have to trust our leadership,” Valentine Powell, Blizzard software engineer, told Polygon during Tuesday’s walkout. “To a certain extent, we have confidence in our direct leaders – the people we work with every day and who try to solve problems. But when it comes to Activision Blizzard, time and time again they continue to lose faith in us. They continue to deny the allegations. They keep telling us that we are wrong. […] But at the end of the day, we need systemic change. We need the ability to be transparent about what’s going on.
[Disclosure: Casey Wasserman is on the board of directors for Activision Blizzard as well as the board of directors of Vox Media, Polygon’s parent company.]
Update: More than 1,000 Activision Blizzard employees and contractors signed the petition within three hours of its publication on ABK Workers’ Alliance was announced on Thursday afternoon. More and more workers continue to register.