NYC targets CEO Bobby Kotick in latest Activision Blizzard lawsuit

Officials accuse Kotick of trying to avoid liability for scandals with a swift sale to Microsoft.

Brendan McDermid / reuters

Activision Blizzard has been hit with another lawsuit, this time from New York City officials. The suit, which was first obtained by Axios, takes aim at CEO Bobby Kotick. It accuses him of being "unfit" to negotiate his company's pending sale to Microsoft, citing his "personal responsibility and liability for Activision’s broken workplace."

The suit was filed by the New York City Employees' Retirement System and pension funds that represent police, teachers and firefighters. The plaintiffs, who own stock in Activision Blizzard, argue that the Microsoft deal allows “Kotick and his fellow directors a means to escape liability for their egregious breaches of fiduciary duty.”

Since last July, Activision Blizzard has been the target of multiple lawsuits. It has been accused of fostering a "frat boy" culture and some have made allegations of workplace harassment and discrimination. In March, a wrongful death suit was filed against the company. Activision Blizzard also said in a filing yesterday that it's cooperating with a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation on "disclosures on employment matters and related issues."

In November, The Wall Street Journal reported that Kotick was aware of many of the alleged instances of harassment and that he may have protected employees who were accused of misconduct. That report, and the alleged workplace problems, are said to have prompted the buyout. The companies announced the sale in January.

New York City claims the $68.7 billion Microsoft deal, which was valued at $95 per share, undervalues a company that was trading at close to that price before the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing sued it last summer and started a wave of litigation. The NYC plaintiffs are demanding access to various company documents, including those related to the pending takeover and details on the five other possible buyers that Activision mentioned in filings on sale talks.

Activision Blizzard shareholders last week overwhelmingly approved the Microsoft deal. The companies hope to close the merger by the end of June 2023, though they require approval from regulators in the US, UK, China, the European Union and some other markets. Should the sale go through, Kotick stands to make as much as $520 million.