Blizzard Entertainment president Daniel Alegre to step down as chairman of video game giant
Blizzard Entertainment president Daniel Alegre will step down as chairman of the video game giant to pursue new opportunities, according to a letter that Activision Blizzard CEO and Chief Operating Officer J. Allen Brack issued to employees today.
Effective immediately Brack will be replaced by Mike Ybarra and Jen Oneal, who have been appointed as co-leaders of Blizzard. Oneal and Ybarra are also responsible for the development of 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 previously served as Blizzard's executive vice president and general manager of platform and technology, overseeing the company's development services organizations and Battle.net. Before Microsoft, Oneal was head of the Vicarious Visions game studio and Ybarra was a senior executive in the Xbox division of Microsoft.
Both are leaders of great character and integrity and deeply committed to ensuring our workplace is the most inspiring, welcoming environment for creative excellence and to upholding our highest game development standards, Alegre said. They will lead Blizzard with years of industry experience and deep commitment to integrity and inclusivity, I am certain Jen and Mike will lead in the industry with care, compassion and dedication to excellence.
In a statement, Brack expressed his confidence that Oneal and 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 components of our culture, which make Blizzard so 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, offering 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Activision Blizzard's legal counsel originally made the allegations false, and in many cases distorted, descriptions of Blizzard's past in a long statement, and called significant changes it called to create an inclusive workplace. According to a subsequent email sent by Activision Blizzard's Chief Compliance Officer Frances Townsend, who called the lawsuit truly meritless and irresponsible and said it included factually incorrect, old, and out of context stories.
The response signed a petition by over 2,000 former and current Activision Blizzard employees, calling the company's statements 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 recruitment, interviewing, hiring, and promotion policies, publication of relative compensation, promotion rates, and salary ranges for all employees and a third party audit of the company's reporting structure, HR department, and executive staff.
The CEO of Activision Blizzard earlier issued a statement calling the Company Response tone deaf, adding that there is no place in our company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind. Kotick also encouraged anyone with an 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 legal firm to review the company policy.
Your well-being remains my priority and I will ensure that our company has the most welcoming, comfortable and safe culture possible. Kotick's letter concluded. Your own company has my unwavering commitment that we'll improve our company together, and will be the most inclusive entertainment company in the world.
Shares of the company have fallen during Tuesday trading session after the announcement to change. Activision Blizzard will release fiscal 2021 second quarter earnings after the bell.