Since the state of California formally filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard last month for violating the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and California Equal Pay Act, the company has been scrutinized based on the findings. Tack on a poor initial statement, letters from Activision Blizzard higher-ups that leaked to the public, employees responding back with their own open letter and striking, it’s no surprise that the next step is a change in leadership.
Today, Blizzard announced that J. Allen Brack is “stepping down” from his title as president of the company. The news was shared on Blizzard’s site as a post titled “New Leadership at Blizzard”:
To all members of the Blizzard Community,
We want to let you know about an important leadership change at Blizzard Entertainment.
Starting today, J. Allen Brack will be stepping down as the leader of the studio, and Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra will co-lead Blizzard moving forward.
Jen joined Blizzard in January as executive vice president of development, where she’s been providing senior development leadership and support to the Diablo and Overwatch franchises. Jen is the former head of Vicarious Visions (which is now part of Blizzard Entertainment).
After many years at XBOX, Mike joined the company in 2019 as the executive vice president and general manager of platform and technology, where he’s been overseeing the evolution of Battle.net and our development services organization.
Jen and Mike have more than three decades of gaming industry experience between them. Moving forward, they will share responsibilities over game development and company operations.
Both leaders are deeply committed to all of our employees; to the work ahead to ensure Blizzard is the safest, most welcoming workplace possible for women, and people of any gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or background; to upholding and reinforcing our values; and to rebuilding your trust. With their many years of industry experience and deep commitment to integrity and inclusivity, Jen and Mike will lead Blizzard with care, compassion, and a dedication to excellence. You’ll hear more from Jen and Mike soon.
The following is a message from J. Allen Brack:
“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. 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.”
Finally, thank you all for being a part of the Blizzard community, and for your passion and determination for safety and equality for all.
Activision Blizzard also prepared a statement for investors, one that clarified that Brack is “leaving the company to pursue new opportunities.” You can read the entire press release below:
August 3, 2021
I am pleased to announce that, effective immediately, Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra have been appointed co-leaders of Blizzard. Jen and Mike will share responsibility for development and operational accountability for the company. Both are leaders of great character and integrity and are deeply committed to ensuring our workplace is the most inspired, welcoming environment for creative excellence and to upholding our highest game development standards.
Many of us already know Mike and Jen and have experienced their leadership, their empathy and their unwavering sense of accountability:
- Jen is an 18-year company veteran and the former head of Vicarious Visions studio. As Executive Vice President of Development at Blizzard, she has been providing senior development leadership and support to the Diablo and Overwatch franchises.
- Mike has been in the technology and gaming industries for over 20 years, including 7 years as a senior executive at Microsoft’s XBOX division. Most recently Mike was Executive Vice President & General Manager of Platform and Technology at Blizzard overseeing Battle.net and our Development Services organizations.
With their many years of industry experience and deep commitment to integrity and inclusivity, I am certain Jen and Mike will lead Blizzard with care, compassion and a dedication to excellence.
With Jen and Mike assuming their new roles, J. Allen Brack is leaving the company to pursue new opportunities.
Of course, neither statement addresses the lawsuit Activision Blizzard is facing and that official court documents name J. Allen Brack (three times within the 29-page court filing). Combined with Brack’s initial statement (letter to employees), this change in leadership appears to be the first of many “sacrificial lamb firings” in response to the lawsuit.
If another executive is to follow Brack in “stepping down” it might be Frances Townsend, Activision Blizzard executive Vice President for Corporate Affairs. Her letter to employees that played down the allegations as well as tweeting out an article discussing “the Problem With Whistleblowing” has upset employees and proven that Townsend is tone-deaf to the entire situation.
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