Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick to step down end of year

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Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick speaks at the CNBC Evolve Conference in Los Angeles on Nov. 19, 2019.

Jesse Grant | CNBC

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick will step down from his role as head of the video game company on Dec. 29, according to an internal memo from Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer on Wednesday.

The leadership change was expected after Microsoft closed its $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard in October. The deal went through extensive regulatory scrutiny in the U.S., the U.K. and Europe.

Kotick had previously said he would stay on as CEO through the end of 2023. He first joined the company as Director and CEO of Activision Inc., in February 1991 before serving as CEO of Activision Blizzard beginning in July 2008.

 “I’d like to thank Bobby—for his invaluable contributions to this industry, his partnership in closing the Activision Blizzard acquisition and his collaboration following the close—and I wish him and his family the very best in his next chapter,” Spencer wrote in the memo, which was viewed by CNBC.

The deal, the largest in Microsoft’s history, was first announced in January 2022. The acquisition gives Microsoft a hefty portfolio of video game franchises, including Call of Duty, Crash Bandicoot, Diablo, Overwatch, StarCraft, Tony Hawk Pro Skater and Warcraft.

In a memo to employees Wednesday, Kotick expressed “gratitude and appreciation” for his time at Activision Blizzard.

“I cannot adequately express the pride I have in the people who continue to contribute to our success and all those who have helped throughout my 32 years leading this company,” Kotick wrote in the release, which was posted to Activision Blizzard’s website. “We are now part of the world’s most admired company. That isn’t an accident.”

Spencer also announced a slew of additional “organizational changes” that will take place following the merger.

Thomas Tippl, the vice chairman of Activision Blizzard; Rob Kostich, president of Activision Publishing; Mike Ybarra, president of Blizzard Entertainment; and others will report to Matt Booty, the president of Microsoft’s Game Content and Studios.

Brian Bulatao, Activision Blizzard’s chief administrative officer, will report to Dave McCarthy, the chief operating officer of Microsoft Gaming, among other changes.

Spencer said the leadership teams at Activision Publishing, Blizzard and King will remain the same, and for most employees, “it’s still business as usual,” adding that much of the day-to-day work will look the same.

“At the leadership level, these changes will provide the clarity and accountability that is necessary to achieve our ambitious goals and foster a culture that is welcoming, empowering, and committed to Gaming for Everyone,” Spencer wrote in the memo.

— CNBC’s Jordan Novet contributed to this report.

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