The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Microsoft and Activision Blizzard "have agreed" behind the scenes that CEO Bobby Kotick will step down after the upcoming $68.7 billion acquisition is complete.
Officially, Microsoft and Activision Blizzard have not confirmed plans for Kotick's exit.
Microsoft's only comment about Kotick was to state that he would remain on as CEO "to further strengthen the company’s culture and accelerate business growth," though there's wiggle room in that statement for his long-term employment.
Questions about Kotick's employment have swirled ever since the Wall Street Journal also reported that Kotick himself had been implicated in some of the alleged toxic behavior at Activision Blizzard. Not only does Kotick stand accused of threatening an assistant, he also allegedly protected Treyarch co-founder Dan Bunting after he was recommended for firing by human resources after being accused of sexual harassment. (Bunting left the company right before that Wall Street Journal report was released).
Activision Blizzard's board of directors have stood by Kotick even as direct accusations against him mounted up. Prior to this report, the only news about his possible job change was promises he made to various Activision Blizzard leaders that he would leave the company if he could not change the company's culture.
For the last few months, some Activision Blizzard employees and investors have called for Kotick's resignation. It's likely that any exit affiliated with the company acquisition would reward Kotick with exceptional financial benefits despite his alleged role in the "frat bro" -like culture at Activision Blizzard and last year's pledge to take a significant salary cut for fiscal 2021 and 2022.
Questions about Kotick's exit continue to swirl as news of the Microsoft acquisition of Activision Blizzard continues to unfold. When did discussions about such an acquisition begin? How did news about Kotick's behavior impact negotiations? How is Microsoft preparing to acquire a company that's saddled with state and federal regulatory lawsuits?
This does not seem to be the end of the Activision Blizzard story--only another chapter in a saga that will have huge implications for the industry and the workers who make it possible.