Activision CEO Allen Brack stepping down to pursue new opportunities
Activision CEO J. Allen Brack will step down to pursue new opportunities, according to a letter signed on Monday by Blizzard Entertainment President and Chief Operating Officer Daniel Alegre to employees.
Effective immediately, Brack will be replaced by Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra, who have been appointed to be the co-leaders of Blizzard. Oneal and Ybarra will share responsibility for development and operational accountability for the company, according to the letter.
Oneal previously served as Blizzard’s executive vice president of development, providing support to the company's Diablo and Overwatch franchises, while Ybarra served previously as Blizzard’s executive vice president and general manager of platform and technology, overseeing the company's development services companies and Battle.net. Oneal was the head of the Vicarious Visions gaming studio and Ybarra was a senior executive in Microsoft's Xbox division.
Both are leaders of great character and integrity and deeply committed to ensuring our workplace is the most engaging environment for creative excellence and to upholding our highest game development standards, Alegre said. Jen and Mike have many years of industry experience and deep commitment to integrity and inclusivity, I am certain they will lead Blizzard with care, compassion and a dedication to excellence.
In a statement, Brack expressed his confidence that Oneal and Ybarra will deliver 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 special, he added.
Brack's departure is part of an executive shakeup as the company faces a wave of backlash due to its response to a discrimination lawsuit from California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The DFEH suit accuses the video game giant of paying its male employees less than their female counterparts, providing them with fewer opportunities to advance and ignoring complaints from female employees regarding blatant harassment, discrimination and retaliation in the workplace.
Activision Blizzard's legal counsel initially called the allegations, in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard's past in a lengthy statement, and outlined significant changes it was made to create an inclusive workplace. According to a subsequent email, a subsequent email was sent to Activision Blizzard CEO Frances Townsend, who called the lawsuit truly defective and irresponsible and said it included factually incorrect, old, and out of context stories.
The response prompted a petition signed by over 2,000 former and current Activision Blizzard employees, venting the company's statements as abhorrent and insulting, as well as an employee walkout demanding an end to mandatory arbitration clauses in all current and future employee contracts, more inclusive recruiting, interviewing, hiring and promotion policies, publication of relative compensation, promotion rates, and salary options for all employees, and a third party audit of the company’s reporting structure, HR department, and executive staff.
Bobby Kotick said in a later statement that the company response tone deaf was saying that there is no place at our company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind. Kotick also encouraged anyone with experience you believe violates our policies or in any way made you uncomfortable in the workplace to report the issue and said Activision Blizzard would take multiple steps to ensure a safe and inclusive workplace, including hiring an outside law firm to review the company's policies.
Your well-being remains my priority and I will spare no company resource ensuring that our company has the most comfortable, and safe culture possible, Kotick's letter concluded. You have my unwavering commitment that we will improve our company together and we will be the most inclusive entertainment company in the world.
Shares of the company have tumbled during Tuesday's trading session following the announcement. Activision Blizzard is set to release its fiscal 2021 second quarter earnings after bell bell.