Aug 3, 2021 - Technology

Blizzard president J. Allen Brack stepping down amid scandal

Photo: Blizzard

Blizzard president J. Allen Brack is out at Blizzard, two weeks after being named in an explosive lawsuit by the state of California involving misconduct at the company.

Why it matters: This is the most concrete reaction Activision Blizzard management has taken since the scandal broke and one taken in advance of executives taking live calls from analysts later today.

  • As one of the heads of Activision Blizzard's three gaming branches, Brack usually was a participant on those calls.

Brack will be replaced by Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra, according to a posting on Blizzard's website, which frames them as a solution to the studio's problems:

  • "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."

Between the lines: The California lawsuit alleged years of harassment and discrimination of Activision Blizzard employees, largely at the Blizzard division responsible for the development of "World of Warcraft" and "Diablo."

  • Brack, a 15-year Blizzard veteran, is one of two employees named in the suit and is singled out for taking "no effective remedial measure" against a creative director accused of abuse.
  • "An employee complained to Blizzard Entertainment President J. Allen Brack in early 2019 that employees were leaving due to sexual harassment and sexism," the suit also states.

The big picture: The day after news of the lawsuit broke, Brack sent a letter to employees calling allegations in it disturbing and calling on workers to report misconduct.

  • He did not mention he'd been accused in the suit of failing to effectively lead.
  • Around the same time a clip from a 2010 Blizzcon convention resurfaced, showing Brack and other senior developers laughing off a question from a woman critical of the skimpy outfits worn by some of their games' characters.
  • Activision Blizzard officials have oscillated between slamming the California lawsuit is "distorted and untrue" and acknowledging the company needs to do better by its employees.
  • Last week, workers staged a virtual and physical walkout at Blizzard in protest of the misconduct and the company's initially harsh reaction to it.

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