As the scandal around Activision Blizzard’s corporate culture develops, the president of subsidiary Blizzard Entertainment is leaving the company.
J. Allen Brack (pictured top) is stepping down as of today, according to a statement posted to Blizzard’s website. His departure comes two weeks after news broke that the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is suing the gaming giant, whose workplace it describes as a “breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women.”
The studio will now be led by Jen Oneal, currently executive vp of development, and Mike Ybarra, executive vp and general manager of platform and technology. They will share responsibilities over game development and company operations.
The statement reads:
Both leaders are deeply committed to all of our employees; to the work ahead to ensure Blizzard is the safest, most welcoming workplace possible for women, and people of any gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or background; to upholding and reinforcing our values; and to rebuilding your trust.
Brack added in a personal comment:
I am confident that Jen Oneal and Mike 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 the components of our culture that make Blizzard so special.
The DFEH’s lawsuit alleges widespread discrimination at Activision Blizzard’s Blizzard Entertainment, which publishes the World of Warcraft franchise. It claims, among other things, that male employees have joked about rape and groped female colleagues; that women who complained about discrimination have faced retaliation; that women are paid less and promoted more slowly than men; and that the company has failed to address all these problems adequately.
Brack is named in the suit, which reads (PDF):
Numerous complaints about unlawful harassment, discrimination, and retaliation were made to Defendants’ human resources personnel and executives, including to Blizzard Entertainment’s President J. Allen Brack. But, Defendants failed to take effective remedial measure in response to these complaints.
Elsewhere, it alleges that Brack failed to properly discipline a colleague who “had been ‘too friendly’ towards female employees.”
The video game world is no stranger to claims of sexual harassment. Yet this suit, and the litany of abuses it describes, have rocked the industry and galvanized Activision’s employees. Many current and former employees, especially at Blizzard Entertainment, have since shared their own horror stories on social media. Thousands have signed an open letter condemning Activision’s defiant response to the lawsuit.
Last Wednesday, hundreds staged an in-person walkout in support of the allegations in the suit and in protest at the company’s response. Among their demands: improved representation of women and marginalized groups at the company; the publication of salary data; and an end to mandatory arbitration, which stop employees from taking conflicts with the company to court.
The walkout was a rare event in the U.S. game industry, which is not unionized. Activision said it would give employees paid time off to participate.
Several current and former executives at Activision also acknowledged the severity of the claims against it, including Brack himself. In an email sent to staff after news broke of the suit, he wrote:
It is completely unacceptable for anyone in the company to face discrimination or harassment. It takes courage to come forward, and all claims brought to the company are investigated by internal and (when needed) external investigators.
Activision will hold its earnings call later today.