Blizzard Entertainment Leader Steps Down Amid Sexism Scandal


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IRVINE (CNS) - The leader of Blizzard Entertainment is stepping down amid widespread accusations of sexism in the workplace at the Irvine video game company.

J. Allen Brack will be replaced by Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra, who will co-lead Blizzard moving forward. Oneal is the former head of Vicarious Visions, which is now part of Blizzard Entertainment. Ybarra, a former Xbox executive who joined the company in 2019, was Blizzard's executive vice president and general manager of platform and technology.

“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,'' Brack said in a statement provided by the company Tuesday. “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.''

Workers at the company's Irvine office staged a one-day walkout last week over alleged sexism in the workplace, a day after the company announced a number of steps to address the charges.

Blizzard is owned by Santa Monica-based Activision Blizzard, and had launched such iconic games as Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. The company is facing a lawsuit by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which alleges a “frat boy workplace culture'' that includes sexual harassment of women by executives.

CEO Bobby Kotick sent a letter to all employees on July 27 outlining new policies to address the problem.

“I want to recognize and thank all those who have come forward in the past and in recent days. I so appreciate your courage. Every voice matters - - and we will do a better job of listening now, and in the future,'' Kotick said in a Twitter post, linking to the letter.

“Our initial responses to the issues we face together, and to your concerns, were, quite frankly, tone deaf. It is imperative that we acknowledge all perspectives and experiences and respect the feelings of those who have been mistreated in any way. I am sorry that we did not provide the right empathy and understanding,'' he wrote.

“...We are taking swift action to be the compassionate, caring company you came to work for and to ensure a safe environment. There is no place anywhere at our company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind.''

The letter went on to say that Activision Blizzard has asked the law firm WilmerHale to conduct a review of its policies and procedures “to ensure that we have and maintain best practices to promote a respectful and inclusive workplace. This work will begin immediately.''

Kotick also cited the following actions, effective immediately:

-- Employee Support. “We will continue to investigate each and every claim and will not hesitate to take decisive action. To strengthen our capabilities in this area we are adding additional senior staff and other resources to both the Compliance team and the Employee Relations team.''

-- Listening Sessions. “We know many of you have inspired ideas on how to improve our culture. We will be creating safe spaces, moderated by third parties, for you to speak out and share areas for improvement.''

-- Personnel Changes. “We are immediately evaluating managers and leaders across the company. Anyone found to have impeded the integrity of our processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences will be terminated.''

-- Hiring Practices. “Earlier this year I sent an email requiring all hiring managers to ensure they have diverse candidate slates for all open positions. We will be adding compliance resources to ensure that our hiring managers are in fact adhering to this directive.''

-- In-game Changes. “We have heard the input from employee and player communities that some of our in-game content is inappropriate. We are removing that content.''

Founded in 1979 as the first independent video game software developer and distributor, Activision operates in more than 15 countries.

Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.

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