Activision Blizzard's head dismisses claims of systemic harassment, suggesting that external factors are aiming to destabilize the company.
Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick has recently stated that the company's reputation issues do not stem from the workplace culture that gave rise to numerous gender discrimination lawsuits filed by former employees and state and federal agencies. Instead, he attributes them to "outside forces" and advocates of unionization.
In a new interview with Variety, Kotick expressed his regret for not taking a stronger stance in defending the company, especially when the Wall Street Journal released an in-depth report containing multiple instances of harassment allegations within the company, including accusations against Kotick himself.
"I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you if any of what you read in the inflammatory narrative was truthful," the executive said.
"We’ve had every possible form of investigation done. And we did not have a systemic issue with harassment – ever. We didn’t have any of what were mischaracterizations reported in the media. But what we did have was a very aggressive labor movement working hard to try and destabilize the company."
Kotick didn't cite any specific mischaracterized or false allegations. Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal, responding to inquiries from Variety, affirmed that it stood by its "fair and accurate reporting on Activision."
The head of Activision Blizzard attributed the company's reputation challenges to "outside forces," pointing out that labor organizers were involved in the gender discrimination lawsuits filed by state and federal entities, as well as in several employee walkouts that took place in recent years.
Still, Kotick stressed that he was not opposed to unions saying that he will fully support employees who desire representation from a union if they genuinely believe that the union can bring about positive changes and improvements.
"If we have employees who want a union to represent them, and they believe that that union is going to be able to provide them with opportunities and enhancements to their work experience, I'm all for it," he said. "I have a mother who was a teacher. I have no aversion to a union. What I do have an aversion to is a union that doesn't play by the rules."
Activision Blizzard is now engaged in contract negotiations with the unions representing Raven Software and Blizzard Albany. According to Kotick, these discussions have been beneficial for all parties involved.
"Over the last few months, we worked thoughtfully and productively with the CWA, and we've engaged in a dialogue that will be beneficial for our people, the union and the company," Kotick said.
Regarding Microsoft's proposed acquisition, Kotick clarified the reasons behind the decision to sell, explaining it by concerns about the economy and the growing challenges associated with talent compensation. He noted that a deal with Microsoft was a suitable fit for the company's requirements and long-term strategic considerations.
Kotick also discussed the potential outcome if the Microsoft deal does not come to fruition. According to him, Activision Blizzard is "a great company" that has "an enormous amount of momentum" and "an extraordinary balance sheet" which is why it can "continue to be successful alone like we have been for the last 30 years." "But it'll be great if the deal goes through because I think it's the right thing for our industry," he added.
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