Activision’s Bobby Kotick Allegedly Long Aware of Harassment, Faced Personal Accusations

Nathan Birch
Activision Blizzard Bobby Kotick

Activision Blizzard has been engulfed in turmoil following an explosive discrimination lawsuit filed earlier this year against the mega publisher, and according to an extensive report from the Wall Street Journal, the rot goes right to the top. Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick has attempted to separate himself from this ongoing story, promising action and forgoing most of his salary and bonuses until progress is made, but according to WSJ Kotick not only knew about the harassment endemic at the company, but made efforts to conceal incidents and shield some perpetrators.

Per the WSJ, Kotick was made aware of a complaint from a woman at Sledgehammer who claimed she was raped by her supervisor in 2016 and 2017 at alcohol-fuelled company events. Activision did take action against the supervisor and reached an out-of-court settlement with the woman, but Kotick kept details of the incident from the Activision Blizzard board of directors. It’s also alleged that Treyarch co-head Dan Bunting was accused of sexual harassment in 2017 at another boozy company event. An internal investigation recommended he be fired, but Kotick stepped in and allowed him to remain at his job.

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Beyond covering for others, it seems Kotick’s own hands aren’t clean, as he’s reportedly had to settle with several women who have accused him of mistreatment. While it doesn’t seem as if Kotick stands personally accused of any sexual harassment, he was allegedly verbally abusive to an assistant, including threatening to have her killed in a voice mail (an Acti-Blizz spokesperson says the message was merely “hyperbolic”). In another incident, Kotick is said to have threatened and fired a flight attendant on his private jet after she accused the pilot of sexual harassment.

In addition to the allegations against Kotick, the Wall Street Journal report contains some more general info about the current state of Activision Blizzard. Following the lawsuit, there have reportedly been over 500 complaints alleging “harassment, sexual assault, bullying” and other issues at the company. More details have also been revealed about the departure of Jen Oneal, the former studio head of Vicarious Visions who was briefly installed as co-leader of Blizzard. While Acti-Blizz attempted to put a happy face on Oneal’s departure, in emails obtained by the WSJ, she roasts leadership saying it’s “clear that the company would never prioritize our people the right way.” She also claims to have been “tokenized, marginalized, and discriminated against” while at the company.

For those who haven’t been keeping up, California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has filed suit against Activision Blizzard, alleging gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment at the Call of Duty and World of Warcraft publisher. Activision Blizzard’s official response to the suit accuses the DFEH of “distorted […] and false” descriptions and insists the picture painted is “is not the Blizzard workplace of today.” An open letter objecting to the official response was signed by thousands of current and former Acti-Blizz employees, leading to a worker walkout. Acti-Blizz CEO Bobby Kotick would eventually apologize for the company’s initial response, calling it “tone deaf.” Several high-ranking Blizzard employees, including former president J. Allen Brack and Diablo IV and World of Warcraft team leaders have resigned or been fired, leading to name changes for some characters. The story has even attracted the attention of the US Federal Government, with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) opening a "wide-ranging" investigation.

Bobby Kotick has been a Teflon figure in the industry, despite his many detractors, but it will be difficult for him to escape these latest allegations. We will keep you updated as this story develops.

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