Since at least November, the beleaguered CEO has been under pressure to leave over the company’s workplace misconduct issue, following reports that he had known about complaints for years and had engaged in abusive behavior himself. He is anticipated to step down after the deal is closed, according to the Wall Street Journal. Neither Microsoft nor Activision Blizzard has commented on his post-acquisition status with the company. Bloomberg reports the same thing, citing a source familiar with the transaction.
According to Microsoft’s release, Kotick will remain CEO of Activision Blizzard, but “the Activision Blizzard business will report to Phil Spencer, CEO, Microsoft Gaming” after the buyout is finalized. There is no mention of what role Kotick will perform at that time.
Kotick said something very similar in his announcement of the Microsoft buyout. “Transactions like these can take a long time to complete,” he wrote. “Until we receive all the necessary regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions are satisfied, which we expect to be sometime in Microsoft’s fiscal 2023 year ending June 30, 2023, we will continue to operate completely autonomously. I will continue as our CEO with the same passion and enthusiasm I had when I began this amazing journey in 1991.”
He has expressed interest in staying on at the company if it is taken over by Microsoft, telling the New York Times that he will be “available as needed” once the purchase is through. In an interview with VentureBeat, he noted that his main emphasis, for now, is “simply staying CEO and operating the business,” but that reporting to Spencer is “an easy thing to do.”
“What I told Microsoft is that I care so much about this company, that whatever role they want me to have, in making sure that we integrate the business and we get a proper and smooth transition, I’m willing to do,” Kotick said. “However much time that takes, if it’s a month after the close, if it’s a year after that, I just care that the transition goes well.”
Despite his stated dedication to making positive changes at Activision Blizzard, Kotick’s history at the helm of the corporation is weighing him down: During a decades-long reign, allegations regarding workplace misconduct went unresolved. Keeping him on in any role would almost definitely come at a public relations cost—calls for his resignation have come from a variety of sources, including an investor group and a political activist group—and Kotick continues to encounter resistance from Activision Blizzard employees.
“The news of Activision’s acquisition by Microsoft is surprising, but does not change the goals of the ABK Worker’s Alliance,” the Activision workers group said in a series of tweets. “We remain committed to fighting for workplace improvements and the rights of our employees regardless of who is financially in control of the company. We will continue to work alongside our allies across the gaming industry to push for measurable change in an industry that desperately needs it. We called for the removal of Bobby Kotick as CEO in November for shielding abusers and he remains CEO as of this writing.”
The Raven QA strike is now in its sixth week, according to the ABK Workers Alliance, and “striking personnel has still not received [a] response from leadership addressing our request to talk.”
Even if the Wall Street Journal claim is accurate, Kotick’s resignation is still some time away. Microsoft does not expect the deal to obtain regulatory and shareholder clearance and is fully finalized until sometime in its 2023 fiscal year, which would finish in June 2023, 17 months from now, as Kotick stated in his message to staff.