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Blizzard Entertainment President steps down; new co-leadership announced

Blizzard Entertainment has announced that J. Allen Brack has stepped down as President of the company, with co-leaders assuming the role.

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In response to the ongoing Blizzard Entertainment lawsuit, J. Allen Brack has stepped down as President of the company, and “Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra will co-lead Blizzard moving forward.”

Activision Blizzard is being sued by the State of California, with the lawsuit against the publisher alleging that Activision Blizzard has failed to address “frat” culture and “sexual harassment”, amongst other things, within the company.

This led to employee walkouts and calls for players to boycott their services as a result. Now, a significant reshuffle in the company’s hierarchy has been announced, with an official statement announcing that J. Allen Brack has stepped down as Blizzard Entertainment’s President.

His role will now be fulfilled by Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra, as they have succeeded him and will oversee the co-leadership of Blizzard Entertainment.

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Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick had to issue an email to the company’s employees citing their initial response to the lawsuit as “tone-deaf.”

Blizzard has now released a full statement regarding the company’s Presidency, and steps moving forward.

“To all members of the Blizzard Community, 

We want to let you know about an important leadership change at Blizzard Entertainment. 

Starting today, J. Allen Brack will be stepping down as the leader of the studio, and Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra will co-lead Blizzard moving forward. 

Jen joined Blizzard in January as executive vice president of development, where she’s been providing senior development leadership and support to the Diablo and Overwatch franchises. Jen is the former head of Vicarious Visions (which is now part of Blizzard Entertainment).

After many years at XBOX, Mike joined the company in 2019 as the executive vice president and general manager of platform and technology, where he’s been overseeing the evolution of Battle.net and our development services organization.

Jen and Mike have more than three decades of gaming industry experience between them. Moving forward, they will share responsibilities over game development and company operations. 

Both leaders are deeply committed to all of our employees; to the work ahead to ensure Blizzard is the safest, most welcoming workplace possible for women, and people of any gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or background; to upholding and reinforcing our values; and to rebuilding your trust. With their many years of industry experience and deep commitment to integrity and inclusivity, Jen and Mike will lead Blizzard with care, compassion, and a dedication to excellence. You’ll hear more from Jen and Mike soon. 

The following is a message from J. Allen Brack:

“I am confident that Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra will provide the leadership Blizzard needs to realize its full potential and will accelerate the pace of change. I anticipate they will do so with passion and enthusiasm and that they can be trusted to lead with the highest levels of integrity and commitment to the components of our culture that make Blizzard so special.”

Finally, thank you all for being a part of the Blizzard community, and for your passion and determination for safety and equality for all.”

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Additionally, Activision Blizzard’s President and COO has also made a statement regarding the recent position changes.

“I am pleased to announce that, effective immediately, Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra have been appointed co-leaders of Blizzard. Jen and Mike will share responsibility for development and operational accountability for the company. Both are leaders of great character and integrity and are deeply committed to ensuring our workplace is the most inspired, welcoming environment for creative excellence and to upholding our highest game development standards.

Many of us already know Mike and Jen and have experienced their leadership, their empathy and their unwavering sense of accountability:

  • Jen is an 18-year company veteran and the former head of Vicarious Visions studio. As Executive Vice President of Development at Blizzard, she has been providing senior development leadership and support to the Diablo and Overwatch franchises.
  • Mike has been in the technology and gaming industries for over 20 years, including 7 years as a senior executive at Microsoft’s XBOX division. Most recently Mike was Executive Vice President & General Manager of Platform and Technology at Blizzard overseeing Battle.net and our Development Services organizations.

With their many years of industry experience and deep commitment to integrity and inclusivity, I am certain Jen and Mike will lead Blizzard with care, compassion and a dedication to excellence.

With Jen and Mike assuming their new roles, J. Allen Brack is leaving the company to pursue new opportunities.

Daniel”

We’ll continue to bring you any fresh developments on the situation.

Image Credit: Activision Blizzard

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Blizzard Chief Legal Officer resigns as Activision Blizzard lawsuit controversy continues

Turmoil at Activision Blizzard continues as new investigations & details surface on the harassment lawsuit.

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The turmoil over the lawsuit for Activision Blizzard continues as a high profile executive of the company has announced their departure.

Blizzard Entertainment’s Chief Legal Officer, Claire Hart, has shared on her LinkedIn that she’s left the company on Friday, September 17.

Hart said in her message on LinkedIn that “the past three years have been full of unexpected twists and turns, but I feel honored to have worked with and met so many great people at Blizzard and across the Activision Blizzard businesses.”

She did not comment on whether her departure was related to what was happening at the company currently. Activision Blizzard also declined to comment beyond confirming her departure.

The news of her departure comes as this week the company confirmed new investigations by the SEC over the company’s handling of the lawsuit scandal.

This week, the situation heated up as Activision Blizzard is now under investigation by the SEC for potentially misleading investors over the brevity of the lawsuit and harassment that occurred at the company.

Activision Blizzard confirmed that they are cooperating with the SEC as part of their investigation into the company.

The lawsuit from California State, which surfaced in July, primarily focused on Blizzard Entertainment’s harassment and scandal issues, including sexual harassment, inequality amongst staff pay, and more issues.

Blizzard’s President of J. Allen Brack was the first executive to leave the company, resigning at the end of July. He was replaced by Mike Ybarra and Jen Oneal as the new co-leaders of Blizzard Entertainment.

So far, Activision Blizzard has refused to met employee’s demands to chart a better future for the company. An employee group, A Better ABK, has been formed to provide their feedback to the executive team.

In other news in regards to Blizzard, the Executive Producer of Overwatch 2 is departing Blizzard this week.

Chacko Sonny, who was highly respected at Blizzard and seen as the person to chart Overwatch’s future following Jeff Kaplan’s departure, told staff in an email that he’s leaving, per Bloomberg. Sonny was perviously one the masterminds behind Call of Duty ELITE service back in 2011.

We’ll continue to update as the situation unfolds.

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Activision Blizzard provides update on workplace initiatives as US government opens investigation

Activision Blizzard is now being investigated by the SEC over sexual misconduct and discrimination allegations, as fallout from initial lawsuit continues.

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The fallout on Activision Blizzard over the initial revelations of workplace harassment at the company continues as the company is now facing new legal challenges from U.S government agencies.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has issued a report stating that the SEC, the Securities and Exchange Committee, opened an investigation into Activision Blizzard recently over the workplace harassment and pay inequality issues.

The SEC has also subpoenaed Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick to appear in court, along with several other Activision Blizzard senior executives. Specific names beyond Kotick were not shared.

The SEC is investigating whether Activision Blizzard’s failure to provide proper information in regards to the harassment and inequality situation prior to it becoming public via the California state lawsuit on July 21, 2021 caused investors to lose money over a drop in the company’s stock prices.

The WSJ states that, per documents and files they’ve reviewed, the SEC is asking for information dating back to 2019.

The agency is specifically inquiring about the communications of senior executives over the harassment and diversity situation and what decisions were made at that time.

Activision Blizzard’s Chief Communications Officer, Helaine Klasky, confirmed to WSJ that the SEC is investigating the company and confirmed they are cooperating with the SEC.

In addition to the SEC, the WSJ reports that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has been investigating Activision Blizzard separately since May 2020 over workplace misconduct and discrimination.

Per reports, Activision Blizzard and the agency are in talks over a settlement agreement which would see the company pay millions of dollars in fines.

Activision Blizzard has been under fire since the California DEFH lawsuit came to light on July 21, 2021.

Employees of the company formed a group, known as A Better ABK, to list their demands and how they want to proceed forward with the company, following a company wide walkout in July. So far, the company’s executives have not met their demands.

Activision Blizzard provides update

Since these new investigations have come to light, Activision Blizzard has issued a statement revealing some progress that the company claims to have made over the last two months.

Bobby Kotick, Chief Executive Officer of Activision Blizzard, said, “We are deeply committed to making Activision Blizzard one of the best, most inclusive places to work anywhere. There is absolutely no place anywhere in our Company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind. While we continue to work in good faith with regulators to address and resolve past workplace issues, we also continue to move ahead with our own initiatives to ensure that we are the very best place to work. We remain committed to addressing all workplace issues in a forthright and prompt manner.”

Activision Blizzard confirmed investigations are underway by the SEC and the EEOC, which were reported by the WSJ. The company says that they are “cooperating” with the investigations.

Kotick also said that the Company continues to productively engage with regulators, including the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) with the goal of improving its workplace policies and procedures and ensuring compliance.

The Company is actively engaged in continued discussions with the EEOC and has cooperated with the EEOC’s investigation concerning certain employment practices. It also confirmed that it is complying with a recent U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) subpoena issued to the Company and several current and former employees and executives regarding disclosures on employment matters and related issues. The Company is confident in its prior disclosures and is cooperating with the SEC’s investigation.

In addition, Activision Blizzard states that they have made several changes to the company and the company’s culture. They state that there have been many exits from the company and have “refreshed” their HR team.

Activision Blizzard recently announced the hiring of Julie Hodges as their new Chief People Officer, who will be responsible for HR. Hodges begins her role on Sept. 21. She replaces the current head of HR, who has left the company.

Activision Blizzard has made a number of important improvements including significant changes to personnel, exiting a number of employees, and expanding compliance resources. In addition, the Company has refreshed its HR organization and, this week, will welcome a new Chief People Officer, Julie Hodges, who joins the Company from The Walt Disney Company. The Company has also expanded training, performance management, and anti-harassment resources.

We’ll continue to provide updates on the situation with Activision Blizzard.

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Activision Blizzard hires new head of HR as harassment lawsuit scandal continues

Activision Blizzard hires two new executives as fallout over the harassment lawsuit continues.

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Activision Blizzard has announced the hiring of two new senior executives as the company continues to face challenges with the harassment and diversity lawsuit.

The new executives will join later this month, with one coming from The Walt Disney Company, and other from Delta Airlines.

The first new hire is Julie Hodges, who will be joining the company as the Chief People Officer. Hodges worked at The Walt Disney Company for years.

Activision Blizzard says she will be responsible for building and reshaping the company’s corporate HR and people team.

Activision Blizzard’s press release describes her role as:

Ms. Hodges brings more than three decades of global human resources experience in entertainment and an impeccable record of shaping corporate culture. She will be responsible for the company’s global talent organization, making Activision Blizzard the destination for top talent. In her role, she will lead all aspects of human resources, including diversity, equity and inclusion, talent acquisition, employee experience, learning and development, compensation and benefits and workforce planning.

“I can’t think of a better person to join our team and help lead our ongoing commitment to an inclusive workplace,” Kotick said. “Julie is the seasoned leader we need to ensure we are the most inspiring, equitable and emulated entertainment company in the world.”

“I share the company’s belief that a work environment should welcome all perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds,” Hodges said. “A workforce where everyone feels valued is critical to the success of our business, as is a trusting, engaging and safe environment that encourages creativity and innovation and in which all employees can thrive. It takes a collective effort to do this, and I’m looking forward to ensuring that we support the diversity of our talent to bring our people together and continue creating amazing entertainment.”

Per the company’s press release, the current Chief People Officer Claudine Naughton is leaving the company. This comes as Activision Blizzard is engulfed in the harassment and diversity lawsuit scandal in the state of California.

The lawsuit, which first came to light on July 21, has shined a light on many of the incidents that took place at Activision Blizzard – from sexual harassment, in-equality, lack of diversity, and more.

The state of California recently further updated their lawsuit to claim Activision Blizzard’s HR team was shredding documents relevant to their investigation.

Ms. Hodges will start her role on September 21 in a rocky time for the company. Employees continue to demand action and change from the executives, including the removal of arbitration clauses. The employees formed a group recently, A Better ABK, to jointly file a labor suit against the company.

The company said in the press release that these new hires will “help the company build a more inclusive workplace as well as diversify and grow its revenue.”

Activision Blizzard also announced another new executive joining the company. Sandeep Dube will join the company from Delta Airlines as the new Chief Commercial Officer. Dube replaces Armin Zerza’s open role, who was promoted to Chief Financial Officer.

Activision Blizzard press release says Mr. Dube will oversee Activision’s global Sales and Go-To-Market teams. He will be responsible for developing and implementing commercial strategy and delivering on the company’s revenue growth plan.

“Sandeep is a rare leader who not only has the ability to expand our global go-to-market teams, but also bring his diverse experience from an accomplished career to unite our commercial group,” Mr. Kotick said. “Our mission is to connect and engage the world through epic entertainment. While Sandeep connected the world through air travel at Delta, he created a growth-oriented culture that was focused on the very best customer experiences. The innovations he inspired created incredible customer loyalty. We are excited to continue our work on revenue growth with an even greater focus on recognizing and rewarding our players.”

Mr. Dube said, “I couldn’t be more excited to join this team and work together to continue building our inclusive culture and to expand our audiences.”

Dube will start his role on September 27.

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