By Rishi Iyengar, CNN Business
Activision Blizzard’s longtime CEO Bobby Kotick is facing mounting pressure from employees to step down amid the company’s ongoing sexual harassment scandal.
More than 800 Activision Blizzard workers so far have signed a petition calling for Kotick’s resignation. The petition, released on Thursday by a group of employees, says they “no longer have confidence” in Kotick’s leadership.
“We ask that Bobby Kotick remove himself as CEO of Activision Blizzard, and that shareholders be allowed to select the new CEO without the input of Bobby, who we are aware owns a substantial portion of the voting rights of the shareholders,” the petition added.
Activision Blizzard — which owns hugely popular titles such as “Call of Duty,” “World of Warcraft” and “Candy Crush” — has been roiled by a sexual harassment and discrimination scandal for months and is currently under scrutiny from multiple government agencies.
An Activision Blizzard spokesperson said in response to the petition that the company was “fully committed to fostering a safe, inclusive and rewarding environment” for its 9,500 employees worldwide.
“We support employees’ rights to express their opinions and concerns in a safe and respectful manner, without fear of retaliation,” the spokesperson added.
The petition comes two days after more than 100 employees organized a walkout demanding Kotick step down. That walkout, the company’s second in less than six months, came in response to a Wall Street Journal investigation indicating the CEO was aware of the company’s harassment and discrimination issues for several years. The report cited internal company documents and people familiar with the matter.
Kotick said in a statement to employees that the Journal story “paints an inaccurate and misleading view of our company, of me personally, and my leadership.” He added that “anyone who doubts my conviction to be the most welcoming, inclusive workplace doesn’t really appreciate how important this is to me.”
While the report prompted renewed tension with some employees, Activision Blizzard’s board of directors has so far stuck by Kotick. “The Board remains confident in Bobby Kotick’s leadership, commitment and ability” to address the company’s longstanding and ongoing issues with harassment and discrimination, it said in a statement Tuesday.
Kotick, who has been Activision CEO since 1991, including at the time of the 2008 merger with Blizzard, has been in damage control mode for most of this year.
Last month, he announced an intention to slash his controversial $155 million pay package — one of the largest in corporate America — to the “lowest amount California law will allow” until the gaming company fixes its issues with gender discrimination and harassment. If the board approves, Kotick will be paid $62,500, he said.
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