In the wake of news of layoffs at Activision-Blizzard affecting between 50 and 190 employees, it’s being reported that Activision-Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick could be set to pocket a payout of up to US$200 million based on a stock-related incentive clause in his employment contract.According to Kotaku, union-sponsored pension fund advocacy organization CtW Investment Group has claimed Activision’s currently soaring stock price – which has climbed throughout the pandemic – will see Kotick benefit from the “Shareholder Value Creative Incentive clause” of Kotick’s 2016 employment agreement. This payout would allow Kotick to collect incentive bonuses he missed in previous years.
CtW Investment Group alleges this windfall could total up to US$200 million.
According to the firm’s website, CtW Investment Group seeks to hold “directors accountable for irresponsible and unethical corporate behavior and excessive executive pay.”
IGN has contacted Activision-Blizzard for comment.
Activision-Blizzard has reportedly laid off nearly 190 employees, including 50 employees from the company’s esports division.
Bloomberg reports that the layoffs affected less than 2% of the company’s employees — two percent translates roughly to 190 employees. Fifty of those employees worked in Activision’s esports division. U.S. workers laid off will receive a minimum of 90 days of severance and health benefits for up to a year, according to Bloomberg, and each employee laid off was given $200 in gift cards to Battle.net, which is the company’s online video game storefront.
Sports Business Journal reports that Activision executive, Tony Petitti, said the 50 esports-specific layoffs are a result of the company’s attempt at reinventing its esports division amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic. Petitti told SBJ that the company is planning for a future where Activision’s esports look different and are “less dependent on live events.”
Activision said the employees laid off will receive “proper severance packages,” according to SBJ, and that despite the company’s shift in its esports focus, which heavily centers on the Overwatch League and the Call of Duty League, it doesn’t plan to move away completely from live events. Both the Overwatch League and the Call of Duty League shifted from live in-person events to online-only events during the past year and SBJ reports that it’s possible Activision could continue down this route for future events.
Petitti said the layoffs are partly because of a need to reduce costs and another part a means to free up resources to reallocate to other areas of the company, but it’s important to note that he was speaking to SBJ about the 50 esports layoffs — Pettiti didn’t speak to SBJ about the other layoffs Bloomberg reported as having happened. He said the company “learned a lot last year in terms of how the leagues can be structured for online play” and that it will “look to carry forward the best practices from that.”
“In terms of timing, it’s a reaction to the realities of how the leagues are playing and what resources we need to allocate to best serve the league, owners, teams, and fans,” Petitti said.
An Activision spokesperson told Bloomberg that “players are increasingly choosing to connect with our games digitally and the e-sports team, much like traditional sports, entertainment, and broadcasting industries, has had to adapt its business due to the impact the pandemic has had on live events.”
This is the company’s second large round of layoffs in the past few years. Activision-Blizzard laid off nearly 800 employees back in March of 2019, including 209 employees from Blizzard.