Blizzard Entertainment President Daniel Alegre to step down from CEO
Blizzard Entertainment President Daniel Alegre will step down from his role at the video game giant to pursue new opportunities, according to a letter from Activision Blizzard president and chief operating officer J. Allen Brack to employees that was sent Monday.
From now onwards, Brack will be replaced by Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra, who have been named as Blizzard Co-Leaders. Oneal and Ybarra will share the 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 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. Oneal was head of the Vicarious Visions studio before Microsoft's Xbox division. Ybarra was a senior executive in Blizzard, Oneal.
Both are leaders of fantastic character and integrity, and are deeply committed to ensuring our workplace is the most exciting, welcoming environment for creative excellence and to upholding our highest game development standards, Alegre said. 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 dedication to excellence.
In a statement, Brack expressed his confidence that Oneal and Ybarra will provide the leadership Blizzard needs to accelerate its full potential and will provide the pace of change.
I anticipate that they will do so with passion and enthusiasm and can be trusted to lead with the highest levels of integrity and commitment to the components of our culture that 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, giving them fewer opportunities to advance and ignore complaints from female employees regarding blatant harassment, discrimination and reprisal in the workplace.
Activision Blizzard's legal counsel called the allegations distorted descriptions of Blizzard's past in a lengthy statement and outlined significant changes it made 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 irresponsible and meritless and said it included factualally incorrect, old, and out of context stories.
The response prompted a petition signed by more than 2000 former and current Activision Blizzard employees, blasting the company's statements as abusive 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 ranges for all employees, and a third-party audit of the company's reporting structure, HR department, and executive staff
Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick later issued a statement calling the company response tone deaf, adding that there is no place at our company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind. Kotick also encouraged anyone who sees an incident that violated 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 welcoming, comfortable, and safe culture possible's KOTICK's letter concluded. You have my unwavering commitment that we will improve our company together and we will be the most inclusive, inspiring entertainment company in the world.
Shares of the company have tumbled during Tuesday's trading session following the announcement. Activision Blizzard is planning to release its second quarter earnings after the bell of fiscal 2021.