Blizzard president J. Allen Brack steps down in executive shakeup amid discrimination lawsuit

The move follows backlash to the company's response to a discrimination lawsuit from California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing

Blizzard Entertainment president J. Allen Brack will step down from his role at the video game giant to "pursue new opportunities," according to a letter to employees Monday from Activision Blizzard president and chief operating officer Daniel Alegre. 

ACTIVISION BLIZZARD CEO SENDS LETTER TO EMPLOYEES, ADMITS ‘TONE DEAF’ RESPONSE TO LAWSUIT

Effective immediately, Brack will be replaced by Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra, who have been appointed as co-leaders of Blizzard. Oneal and Ybarra will "share responsibility for development and operational accountability for the company", according to the letter.

Oneal previously served as Blizzard's executive vice president of development, providing support to the company's Diablo and Overwatch franchises, while Ybarra previously served as Blizzard's executive vice president and general manager of platform and technology, overseeing the company's development services organizations and Battle.net. Before Blizzard, Oneal was the head of gaming studio Vicarious Visions and Ybarra was a senior executive at Microsoft's Xbox division. 

"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," Alegre said. "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." 

In a statement, Brack expressed his confidence that Oneal and 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," he added.

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Brack's departure is part of an executive shakeup as the company faces a wave of backlash due to its response to a discrimination lawsuit from California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The DFEH suit accuses the video game giant of paying its female employees less than their male counterparts, providing them with fewer opportunities to advance, and ignoring complaints from female employees regarding blatant harassment, discrimination and retaliation in the workplace.

Activision Blizzard's legal counsel initially called the allegations "distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past" in a lengthy statement, and outlined "significant changes" its made to create an inclusive workplace. According to PCGamer, a subsequent email was sent out by Activision Blizzard's Chief Compliance Officer Frances Townsend, who called the lawsuit "truly meritless and irresponsible" and said it included "factually incorrect, old, and out of context stories."

The response prompted a petition signed by over 2,000 former and current Activision Blizzard employees, blasting the company's statements as "abhorrent and insulting", as well as an employee walkout demanding an end to mandatory arbitration clauses in all current and future employee contracts, more inclusive recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and promotion policies, publication of relative compensation, promotion rates, and salary ranges for all employees, and a third party audit of the company's reporting structure, HR department, and executive staff.

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Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick later issued a statement calling the company response "tone deaf," adding that there is "no place anywhere at our company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind." Kotick also encouraged anyone with "an experience you believe violates our policies or in any way made you uncomfortable in the workplace" to report the issue and said Activision Blizzard would take multiple steps to ensure a safe and inclusive workplace, including hiring an outside law firm to review the company's policies.

"Your well-being remains my priority and I will spare no company resource ensuring that our company has the most welcoming, comfortable, and safe culture possible," Kotick's letter concluded. "You have my unwavering commitment that we will improve our company together, and we will be the most inspiring, inclusive entertainment company in the world."

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Shares of the company have tumbled during Tuesday's trading session following the announcement. Activision Blizzard is set to release its second quarter earnings for fiscal 2021 after the bell.