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Activision Blizzard: Merger talks haven't covered CEO Kotick's future

Should he stay or should he go?

Bryant Francis, Senior Editor

April 18, 2022

2 Min Read
A photograph of CEO Bobby Kotick

Activision Blizzard has updated its acquisition filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission to indicate that Microsoft and CEO Bobby Kotick have not yet discussed the fate of his employment on the $68.7 acquisition's completion.

The filing was spotted over the weekend by Axios' Stephen Totilo. In it, Activision Blizzard states that "No discussions or negotiations regarding post-closing employment arrangements with Microsoft occurred between Microsoft and Mr. Kotick prior to the approval and execution of the merger agreement and the transactions contemplated thereby, or have occurred subsequent to such approval and execution, through the date hereof."

On paper, this would seem to contradict a prior report from The Wall Street Journal that stated Kotick was on track to receive a hefty compensation package as part of a post-acquisition exit. 

There's no reason to assume Activision Blizzard is lying to SEC, but the question of how much these filings represent reality feels very tricky. Activision Blizzard previously asserted that it was "not aware" of any unionization pushes at the company, strikes, or complaints with the NLRB.  By the time of that filing, Raven Software employees were on strike, had begun their unionization efforts, and there had been complaints about Activision Blizzard to the NLRB. As legal observers noted at the time however, Activision Blizzard's filing was likely in line with standard acquisition practices. 

This filing update could be something similar (a regular description to be amended at a later date), or a statement of fact indicating The Wall Street Journal's prior reporting was inaccurate. It's hard to say. 

The fate of Kotick has been up in the air for the last few months, as both the Microsoft acquisition and a battery of lawsuits against Activision Blizzard for its alleged culture of sexual harassment and discrimination have moved forward. Employees called for his departure after The Wall Street Journal reported that Kotick allegedly threatened to kill a female assistant, and that he allegedly protected Treyarch co-founder Dan Bunting after HR recommended he be fired for sexually harassing another employee.

The Journal also reported that Kotick also allegedly ordered chief compliance officer Fran Townsend to e-mail employees in the days after the California Department of Fair Housing and Employment filed its suit against to company to say that the lawsuit "distorted and untrue picture of our company" and that it was "truly meritless and irresponsible." 

Kotick would later apologize for Townsend's initial e-mail and the company's response to the DFEH lawsuit

It's been revealed in the last few months that were Microsoft to fire Kotick after the acquisition, he would receive a $15 million compensation package. Kotick has apparently told company leaders that if he could not "fix" Activision Blizzard's culture, he would consider leaving the company

About the Author(s)

Bryant Francis

Senior Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Bryant Francis is a writer, journalist, and narrative designer based in Boston, MA. He currently writes for Game Developer, a leading B2B publication for the video game industry. His credits include Proxy Studios' upcoming 4X strategy game Zephon and Amplitude Studio's 2017 game Endless Space 2.

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