Activision Blizzard chief slashes wages, pledges change amid corporate culture polls

Bobby Kotick, longtime CEO of video game publisher Activision Blizzard Inc.,

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told employees on Thursday he would agree to a pay cut and end compulsory arbitration for internal harassment and discrimination complaints in regulatory investigations into the company’s culture.

Mr Kotick, 58, was the second highest-paid CEO in the country, earning $ 154 million in 2020, according to the Wall Street Journal’s annual ranking of the compensation and performance of executives at S&P 500 companies.

In a letter released on Thursday, Kotick said he had asked Activision’s board of directors to reduce his salary to the minimum allowed by California law for salaried workers – $ 62,500 – and that he would give up premiums and capital grants.

The announcement was part of a series of changes, Kotick said, aimed at making the company more diverse and safer for employees.

“Over the past decade, as we integrated new businesses, increased our workforce and expanded our business, we believed that we had the systems, policies and people in place to ensure that our business was consistently up to par. its reputation as a great place to work, ”Kotick said in the letter. “Obviously, in some vitally important aspects we have not. “

An Activision spokesperson declined to comment beyond Mr Kotick’s letter.

“We need tighter rules and consistent oversight across the company to make sure reports are handled properly and discipline is appropriate and timely.”

– Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard

Activision, which owns successful franchises such as “Call of Duty”, “World of Warcraft” and “Candy Crush”, is the subject of a lawsuit by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, alleging that the The company ignored employee complaints of sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation and maintained a “frat-boy” culture.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has also launched an investigation into Activision’s handling of allegations of sexual misconduct and discrimination in the workplace, and subpoenaed Mr. Kotick.

A spokeswoman for Activision previously said the company was cooperating with the SEC. The company has gone to court to stay the lawsuit filed by the California DFEH, but the claim was dismissed, according to court documents. Activision has said it will fight the California agency’s lawsuit.

Activision has agreed to pay $ 18 million to settle a US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigation into its workplace practices. The California regulator has said the amount of the proposed settlement is too small and the deal includes provisions detrimental to victims and their cases. Activision said the settlement is subject to court approval and will take steps to “prevent and eliminate harassment,” including providing better training.

An EEOC spokesperson declined to comment. In a case filed in court earlier this month, the federal agency said the California regulator’s objection could potentially derail relief for hundreds of people.

Mr. Kotick isn’t the only one in Silicon Valley to volunteer to dramatically reduce his pay. Founders like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg Inc.

and Jeff Bezos from Inc.

have also opted against collecting large grants and salaries in shares and instead relied on the value of their investments in their companies.

Mr. Kotick’s 2020 salary envelope of $ 154 million was in part due to a performance-based reward tied to his 2016 employment contract. In March, the board approved an extension of that agreement. , which is due to expire this year, until 2023.

The Activision boss also wrote to employees that he was implementing a new company-wide anti-harassment policy. “We need tighter rules and consistent oversight across the company to make sure reports are handled properly and discipline is appropriate and prompt,” he wrote.

The change to compulsory arbitration for sexual harassment and discrimination means that Activision’s roughly 10,000 employees will be able to sue the company directly, rather than going through an arbitrator if claims are filed. Employees who previously criticized management’s statements had called for this policy to change.

In addition, Mr Kotick said the company aims to increase the number of women and non-binary people in its workforce by 50% over the next five years and invest $ 250 million over the next decade to accelerate. opportunities for diverse talent.

Write to Sarah E. Needleman at and Kirsten Grind at

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