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Embattled Activision-Blizzard CEO to get $390M payout in Microsoft deal

Activision-Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick will walk away with a $390 million check as a result of Microsoft’s acquisition of his gaming company — just two months after employees demanded his firing over the firm’s alleged culture of sexual misconduct. Kotick, 58, who is expected to leave Activision-Blizzard after the deal is completed sometime next year, agreed on Tuesday to sell his company to Microsoft in an all-cash deal valued at $75 billion. The vast majority of his $390 million payout will come from the 3.95 million shares that he owns, according to securities filings. Since Kotick doesn’t own any unvested equities, he will not be entitled to a change of control payment. Kotick is said to be worth an estimated $870 million, according to Forbes. The software giant’s acquisition of the Santa Monica-based gaming studio that has produced hits like Candy Crush, Call of Duty, and Guitar Hero will make it the third-largest company in the online gaming space behind Tencent and Sony. Microsoft’s official announcement of the acquisition, the largest in the history of the tech giant, did not mention Kotick. Kotick, who has helmed Activision-Blizzard since 1991 after he led a group of investors in purchasing the company, will stay on through the transition. Once the deal closes in 2023, “the Activision-Blizzard business will report to Microsoft gaming chief Phil Spencer,” a Microsoft spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal. Kotick told the Journal on Tuesday that he will “always be available to ensure that we are going to have the very best integration.” He refused to comment on his future status. The Microsoft deal ends a tumultuous period for Activision-Blizzard. In recent months, the company has been scrutinized for its alleged mishandling of complaints related to reported instances of sexual harassment and discrimination. In July of last year, the company was sued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing after a two-year investigation found alleged cases of harassment, discrimination, and a toxic workplace culture. The investigation accused the firm of tolerating a “frat bro” culture that included rape jokes, crude comments, and groping. One female employee who was said to have been subjected to abuse died by suicide. Kotick admitted last summer that the company was “tone deaf” in its response to California’s lawsuit. In November, dozens of his employees staged a walkout demanding that the board remove Kotick after it was learned that the CEO knew about the company’s office culture for years. In 2006, Kotick is alleged to have harassed one of his assistants before threatening to have her killed. A company spokesperson said that Kotick “quickly apologized” for what was described as an “obviously hyperbolic and inappropriate voice mail.”

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