Bobby Kotick will remain Activision Blizzard CEO until the end of 2023

He's expected to leave in 2024 after helping with the transition to Microsoft's ownership.

Carlos Barria / reuters

One of the biggest unanswered questions regarding Microsoft's $67.8 billion purchase of Activision Blizzard concerned the role of Bobby Kotick at the company. Now that the deal is finally complete and the publisher is officially a part of Microsoft, the future of the Activision Blizzard CEO is a little clearer.

In a memo to employees, Kotick wrote that he is "fully committed to helping with the transition." He'll remain at the helm "through the end of 2023" and he'll report to Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer. "We both look forward to working together on a smooth integration for our teams and players," Kotick wrote.

Kotick is widely expected to step down from the role he has held for over three decades as soon as January 1, though Activision Blizzard has declined to confirm an exact date for his departure. In any case, his contract runs until April.

Other changes are expected at the top of Activision Blizzard. In his own memo to the publisher's staff, Spencer wrote that "we will share more updates on our new organizational structure in the coming months."

Kotick shaped his company into a financially successful enterprise after leading a group of investors to buy Mediagenic for a bargain-basement price in 1991. He restructured the company and restored its previous name of Activision. In 2008, following a string of successful games, acquisitions and investments, Kotick engineered a merger with the games division of Vivendi, which owned Blizzard.

However, Kotick's stewardship of the company has long been a controversial one. As far back as 2010, Kotaku called him "the most hated man in video games," partly because of the perception that Kotick places a heavy focus on monetizing Activision Blizzard's games as much as possible. That's not to mention his reported treatment of employees at his various companies.

Over the last few years, observers have been paying more attention to Activision Blizzard's culture under Kotick. In 2021, the California Civil Rights Department, sued the company, alleging that it fostered a culture where discrimination and widespread harassment were rife. Later that year, a report by The Wall Street Journal indicated that Kotick had long been aware of sexual misconduct and assault allegations at Activision Blizzard, and that he neglected to share some of those (or details about settlements that were agreed with alleged victims) with the board.

The report led to many Activision Blizzard workers walking out and demanding Kotick's resignation. The following year, months after Microsoft made its blockbuster bid for Activision Blizzard, the publisher's shareholders voted to let Kotick keep his board seat.

In fact, the turmoil over Activision Blizzard's toxic workplace culture (and resulting pressure on the company that sent its stock tumbling) was what prompted Microsoft to buy the company. Kotick had claimed that Overwatch 2 and Diablo IV delays resulted in a fall of the stock price. But workers pushed back on those assertions.

Overwatch producer Tracy Kennedy claimed in early 2022 that Kotick pushed "random projects" onto the development team. Kennedy said the team worked overtime only to see those projects canceled and that "entire teams are turning over" and blaming Kotick.

It's not only at Activision where Kotick has spurred controversy. In 2007, the flight attendant of a private jet he was co-owner of sued him. The attendant alleged that, after she informed the plane's other owner that the pilot had sexually harassed her, Kotick fired her. The case resulted in a $200,000 settlement for the flight attendant.

Kotick has long been one of the highest-paid CEOs in North America and he's not exactly going to be retiring with only a nice watch to show for his time at Activision Blizzard. A report last year suggested that he stood to make $375.3 million from the sale to Microsoft. He's also expected to receive a golden parachute payment of $14.6 million when he departs.