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"Call of Duty Warzone." Image via Activision.

"Call of Duty" giant Activision Blizzard has said it will give stockholders an extra week to continue voting on 2020 c-suite payouts that include $155 million for CEO Bobby Kotick.

Why it matters: The shareholder approval vote is non-binding, so Activision Blizzard’s board can do whatever it wants, but a "no" vote would still pressure the company to change things in the future.

Driving the news: The vote was originally scheduled to be completed at Activision Blizzard’s annual meeting on Monday, alongside a vote on the company’s board.

  • But Activision announced late on Monday that voting on the compensation issue would be open through June 21, based on "requests from shareholders for additional time."
  • The other votes were completed on Monday, successfully.

Between the lines: For the past two weeks, Activision Blizzard has been in a war of statements with investor groups who have urged shareholders to vote “no” on Kotick’s and others’ pay.

  • The argument against isn’t just that the payments are too high, but that some adjustments in Kotick’s income announced earlier this spring don’t go far enough.
  • Activision had pushed back, issuing two notices to shareholders, including one last Friday, to refute the investor groups.
  • In an example of how this has been going, investor group CtW accurately knocked the company for failing to achieve even 70% approval of its annual pay proposals five times since 2014 — while Activision accurately countered by saying it got 92% and 82% in two of the past three years.

By the numbers: Kotick's $155 million in cash and stock for 2020 would make him the second-highest CEO of an S&P 500 company, according to the Wall Street Journal.

  • He made $30 million in 2019, but a 90-day streak in Activision Blizzard’s stock price in 2020 triggered the much larger windfall.
  • It also triggered investor criticism, which led to Activision Blizzard announcing a 50% pay cut in Kotick’s base salary this year, down to $875,000. A contract extension lowered his potential bonuses in 2022.
  • Under that investor pressure, Kotick also agreed to receive an early stock reward for 2021 with a maximum value of $32 million, down from the originally planned $54 million.

What they're saying: Activision Blizzard justified the highly unusual one-week vote delay by saying that "allowing additional time for shareholders to meaningfully participate in the vote better represents their interests."

  • Michael Varner, of CtW, one of the groups urging a "no" vote, told Axios that Monday's delay was a "desperate attempt to avoid losing."
  • He and Activision both noted that 86% of the shareholders have already voted.

What's next: Results of the extended vote are likely to be revealed on June 21.

Go deeper

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.

A new round in Electronic Arts' executive pay fight

EA CEO Andrew Wilson. Photo: Martina Albertazzi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

An investor group that has for over a year been critical of how Electronic Arts' top people are paid says it is only partially satisfied by the company's latest pledges.

Why it matters: EA shareholders issued a rare "no" vote on the company's executive pay last summer, and EA has laid out measures to address that.

Industry leader calls for unionization

"State of Decay 2." Screenshot: Undead Labs/Microsoft

The call for game developers to unionize is now coming from a voice close to the top. On Friday, former Blizzard senior programmer and three-time studio founder Jeff Strain released a letter encouraging his own developers to unionize.

Why it matters: Unionization is often mentioned by industry pundits and workers themselves as a crucial maneuver to empower the people who make games, but it’s been a non-starter at most studios.