Neither Microsoft nor Activision Blizzard has officially commented on Kotick’s possible post-acquisition role.
One of the big questions left after Microsoft’s $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard is: what will become of Bobby Kotick? The chief executive has been under pressure since at least November to resign over the workplace misconduct scandal after it was reported he had known about the grievances for many years and was abusive. Neither Microsoft nor Activision Blizzard has commented on his post-acquisition status with the company, but he’s expected to exit once the market closes, according to The Wall Street Journal. A Bloomberg report says the same, citing a person familiar with the sale.
In announcing the acquisition, Microsoft said Kotick will continue to serve as Activision Blizzard’s CEO, but said that after the acquisition closes, “Activision Blizzard’s business will report to Phil Spencer, CEO of Microsoft Gaming.” Kotick’s role at this point is not mentioned.
Kotick said something very similar in his own Microsoft acquisition announcement. “Transactions like this can take a long time to complete,” he wrote. “Until we receive all required regulatory approvals and satisfy normal closing conditions, which will hopefully occur in Microsoft fiscal year 2023, which ends June 30, 2023, “we will continue to operate independently. I will continue as CEO with the same passion and enthusiasm that I had when I embarked on this extraordinary journey in 1991.”
He has expressed interest in retaining a role at the company once it comes under Microsoft control, telling the New York Times it will be “available on-demand” after the deal expires. In an interview with VentureBeat, he said something very similar, saying his previous goal had been “just to remain CEO and run the company,” but reporting Spencer was a simple matter.
“What I said to Microsoft is that I’m so concerned about this company that I’m willing to play the role they want me to have to integrate the company and make the transition smooth,” Kotick said. She said. “How long does it take if it’s a month after the closure, if it’s a year after that I don’t care if the move goes well.”
Despite his stated commitment to creating positive change at Activision Blizzard, Kotick has acted on his history at the helm of the company – a decade-long tenure during which complaints of workplace abuse went unanswered. It would certainly have a PR price if retained in any form — which would require its removal from sources as diverse as an investor organization and a political activist group — and Kotick remains under pressure from Activision Blizzard employees.
“The news of Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision is surprising, but it doesn’t change the goals of the ABK Workers’ Alliance,” a group of Activision employees said in a series of tweets. “We remain committed to fighting for improvements in the workplace and the rights of our employees, regardless of who is in charge of company finances. We will continue to work with our allies in the gaming industry to drive measurable change.” Bobby Kotick was removed as CEO in the industry in November to protect against abusers and as of this writing he remains CEO.”
The ABK Workers’ Alliance also noted that the Raven QA strike is now in its fifth week and “the team has yet to receive a response from its management to our request for negotiations.”
Even if the Wall Street Journal report is correct, Kotick’s departure is still a long way off. As Kotick noted in his message to employees, Microsoft does not expect the market to receive regulatory and shareholder approval and fully shut down by fiscal 2023, which ends in June 2023 in 17 months.