Activision Blizzard Inc. Chief Executive Officer Bobby Kotick stands to reap more than $500 million after Microsoft Corp. completes its purchase of the video game publishing giant.
In a securities filing on Friday, Activision said Kotick, 59, would receive $14.4 million in severance if he is terminated or leaves under various circumstances within a year of a change of control at the company. Kotick owns 4.3 million shares and has the right to acquire another 2.2 million through the exercise of options, which could potentially be worth $520 million in total at the $95 per-share price that Microsoft is offering. Kotick, who has been CEO for nearly 30 years, received $826,549 in total compensation in 2021, according to the proxy filing.
The payout is striking for a leader whose recent tenure has been marked by employee complaints over sexism, a hostile work culture and mismanagement of assault claims. Kotick was the target of employee walkouts in November and petitions demanding his removal over reports he failed to make the company’s board aware of allegations of rape and other serious misconduct.
Activision said Kotick’s pay has been tied to the company’s performance. “The majority of Mr. Kotick’s compensation was earned by surpassing ambitious pre-established goals, including doubling the market cap for two consecutive periods,” the company said in a statement. “Mr. Kotick has transformed the company, reshaped the video game industry, and delivered tens of billions of dollars of value to shareholders.”
Kotick’s compensation was controversial even before California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing sued the video-game publisher in July, detailing a retaliatory “frat boy” culture. Earlier, the company announced it was slashing Kotick’s 2021 salary and bonus in half in response to criticism his pay package was excessively lavish compared with peers.
In 2020, Kotick was awarded total compensation of $155 million. Most of that came in the form of moonshot-incentive stock awards that were granted by the board in 2016.
Kotick will stay on as CEO only until the deal closes, a person familiar with the transaction said at the time it was announced in January. The acquisition is expected to close by the end of Microsoft’s fiscal year in June 2023, pending regulatory approval, the company has said.
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