As we reported yesterday, the noose is tightening around Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick’s neck. Shareholders are now backing away from him in increasing numbers. At the same time, Sony Interactive Entertainment boss Jim Ryan has spoken to his employees, indicating how uncomfortable the situation at the partner company is for the PlayStation distributor.
It is not only employees who are demanding the resignation of Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick but also a significant group of the company’s shareholders who believe that the veteran leader has proven to be unfit to handle the situation.
“In contrast to past company statements, CEO Bobby Kotick was aware of many incidents of sexual harassment, sexual assault and gender discrimination at Activision Blizzard but failed either to ensure that the executives and managers responsible were terminated or to recognize and address the systematic nature of the company’s hostile workplace culture,” said the letter from the group, which owns more than 4.8 million shares of the industry giant, as reported by The Washington Post.
Those are demanding the ouster of Activision Blizzard’s current CEO are going further, calling for a complete overhaul of the company’s board. The shareholder group, led by SOC Investment Group, is calling for the departure of Brian Kelly and Robert Morgado before the end of the year. And if they don’t? In a letter shared by The Washington Post, the group says they will vote against the directors’ re-election in June and campaign for other shareholders to join them in opposing their verdict.
“After the new revelations, it’s clear that the current leadership repeatedly failed to uphold a safe workplace – a basic function of their job,” says Dieter Waizenegger, CEO of SOC, in an interview with the US newspaper. “Activision Blizzard needs a new CEO, board chair and lead independent director with the expertise, skillset and conviction to truly change the company’s culture. We need to really have a reset button on the board,” he adds.
However, a few hours ago, the board confirmed its support for Bobby Kotick, despite the vehement protests by employees against his appointment yesterday. The company was down 3% on the stock market yesterday afternoon, adding to the 6.09% plunge the day before yesterday.
Sony is worried
Meanwhile, Kotick himself spoke out: he was quick to defend himself, citing his reputation: “Anyone who doubts my belief that I want to build a healthier, more inclusive workplace really doesn’t understand how important this is to me,” said the Activision Blizzard CEO.
But that statement wasn’t enough for Sony Interactive Entertainment boss Jim Ryan, who, as reported by Jason Schreier in Bloomberg, contacted Activision Blizzard after the WSJ article. Jim Ryan sent an email to employees informing them of his concerns about Activision Blizzard’s response to the latest allegations.
“We outreached to Activision immediately after the article was published to express our deep concern and to ask how they plan to address the claims made in the article,” Ryan shared. “We do not believe their statements of response properly address the situation,” he explained.
In the email, Ryan admitted that he and his team were “disheartened and frankly stunned to read” the news that Activision “has not done enough to address a deep-seated culture of discrimination and harassment”.
Jim Ryan and the PlayStation team’s concerns put further pressure on Bobby Kotick’s already delicate position. Over the years, the Japanese video game company has become one of Activision Blizzard’s closest allies, with several deals: marketing cooperation, exclusive access to big games like Call of Duty and Destiny, console and game bundle partnerships, and limited editions of Sony’s bestsellers for consoles.