According to a new report from the Wall Street Journal, Activision-Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick will "consider" leaving his position if he cannot solve the company's issues quickly. This comes in the wake of a previous WSJ report that brought new, damning allegations to light directly regarding Kotick last week which has resulted in widespread pressure on Activision-Blizzard to remove him.
The allegations are far reaching and broad, concerning both Kotick's personal conduct and his involvement with situations pertaining to the ongoing DFEH sexual harassment lawsuit. Some of the biggest takeaways were that Kotick threatened to have an assistant killed, stepped in on behalf of a leadership-position-employee about to be terminated for sexual harassment, and knowing about multiple cases of sexual harassment and rape at the company and keeping this information from employees and the board of directors.
According to the newest report, Kotick has been in multiple meetings with both Activision and Blizzard senior staff since the allegations came to light. It was in a meeting with the latter where he reportedly stated that he will 'consider' leaving the company if he couldn't fix the issues 'with speed'.
This is about as weak a statement as he could have possibly given under the circumstances. The DFEH lawsuit showed that misconduct and harassment has been a prevalent issue for over a decade, and since the lawsuit was filed in July over 500 new cases have been reported. In that time, Kotick was more concerned with new NDAs silencing employees, the destruction of relevant evidence, and bringing in a corporate law firm than he was with fixing issues 'with speed'.
Add to the ludicrous yet vague criteria that the executive simply stated that he'd "consider" leaving, and we have what amounts to pretty much nothing - but this is the first time Kotick himself addressed the question in the wake of mounting pressure from both within and without the company.
While there were calls for the resignation of the CEO who allowed widespread sexual harassment to happen under his leadership already, these multiplied after the newest allegations. The ABK Workers Alliance organized a walkout, and their demands for Kotick to resign have been signed by over 1700 employees.
While the board of directors came out in support of Kotick, the SOC investment group among the Activision-Blizzard shareholders also demanded the CEO's resignation. Unfortunately they only control 0.6% of the total shares, so more pressure will be needed before he could be ousted. Meanwhile, voices from outside the company, like those of Jim Ryan and Phil Spencer are also mounting.
Demands for Kotick's resignation all include stipulations that his replacement would be chosen without his input - this is important because Kotick controls a major percentage of shares giving him significant shareholder voting rights.
Many have questioned why the board of directors are supporting Kotick, since he kept key information about the lawsuit from them, and is now being subpoenaed. The company stock also took a hit since the controversy unfolded. Similarly, many have question why Kotick isn't giving in - he'd walk away with hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses, already is obscenely rich, and surely decadent retirement is preferable to this, right?
Even so, while Kotick's removal or resignation is at this point the bare minimum and necessary on the road towards curing the cultural rot at Activision-Blizzard, everyone needs to remember that it wouldn't be enough - sweeping personnel and policy changes would be needed to even begin, but these steps have to be taken nonetheless.
Kotick "considering" resignation if his arbitrary conditions aren't met is meaningless and performative, but the fact that the executive even addressed the subject shows that the pressure is hitting home - it's just that more is needed.