J. Allen Brack has stepped down from his role as Blizzard president.
In a statement, Blizzard announced that Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra have been appointed as co-leaders of Blizzard, and will share responsibility for development and operational accountability for the company.”
The statement makes little mention of the reasons behind Brack’s departure, simply stating that he is “leaving the company to pursue new opportunities.”
“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,” said Brack. “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.”
Brack’s departure comes two weeks after news broke that the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing had filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard, accusing the company of having a ‘frat boy culture’ that has contributed to years of sexual harassment and unequal pay for women at the company.
Brack was personally named in the lawsuit as having failed to prevent another developer, Alex Afrasiabi, from consistently harassing female co-workers. To quote from the lawsuit (via Forbes):
“J. Allen Brack, President of Blizzard Entertainment, allegedly had multiple conversations with Afrasiabi about his drinking and that he had been ‘too friendly’ towards female employees at company events but gave Afrasiabi a slap on the wrist (ie. verbal counseling) in response to these incidents. Subsequently, Afrasiabi continue to make unwanted advances toward female employees, including grabbing a female employee’s hand and inviting her to his hotel room and groping another woman.”
The company’s initial response was combative, calling the allegations “distorted, and in many cases false,” though Blizzard co-founder and former president and CEO Mike Morhaime later issued a statement saying he was “ashamed” for failing women at the company.
Hours before a planned staff walkout in protest against the company, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick admitted the company’s initial statement was “tone deaf.” However, Kotick’s statement too missed the mark, with protestors responding that Kotick failed to address their concerns.