As is typically the case with a major acquisition (in this case Microsoft’s $68.7B USD acquisition of Call of Duty maker Activision Blizzard King) and the inevitable consolidation of operations, Microsoft is making some key personnel changes and adjustments ahead of the new year.
As was announced when Microsoft and Activision Blizzard King first announced plans to combine, longtime Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick will leave the company on Dec. 29. His role—at least for the time being—will not be filled; instead executives at Activision Blizzard will report directly to Microsoft Game Content and Studios President Matt Booty. The news was revealed by both Matt Booty and Microsoft EVP of Gaming Phil Spencer in internal company memos this week (which we saw first in a report The Verge).
Both companies will see adjustments to positions and some departures. As noted already, Kotick will leave on Jan. 29, while Activision Blizzard Chief Communications Officer Lulu Meservey will leave the company at the end of January, and Blizzard and King Vice Chairman Humam Sakhnini will make his exit at the end of this month.
Blizzard President Mike Ybarra, Activision Publishing President Rob Kostich, and Activision Blizzard Vice Chair Thomas Tippl will now report directly to Matt Booty. With these adjustments, Booty will now oversee Activision Blizzard, Bethesda and Zenimax, and Xbox Game Studios.
Phil Spencer said the following in a memo to staff:
Earlier today, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick formally announced that Friday December 29th, 2023 will be his last day at Microsoft Gaming. Under Bobby’s watch, Activision Blizzard in its many incarnations has been an enduring pillar of video games. Whether it’s Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Candy Crush Saga or any number of other titles, his teams have created beloved franchises and entertained hundreds of millions of players for decades. 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.
With Bobby’s impending departure, we are taking the next step in aligning Activision Blizzard with Microsoft Gaming, by making the following organizational changes:
Thomas Tippl (Vice Chairman, Activision Blizzard), Rob Kostich (President, Activision Publishing), Mike Ybarra (President, Blizzard Entertainment) and Tjodolf Sommestad (President, King) will report to Matt Booty (President, Game Content and Studios). The leadership teams for Activision Publishing, Blizzard and King will remain in place, with no changes to the structure of how the studios and business units are run.
Brian Bulatao (Chief Administrative Officer) will report to Dave McCarthy (Chief Operations Officer, Microsoft Gaming).
Julie Hodges (Chief People Officer) will report to Cynthia Per-Lee (Corporate Vice President, Gaming Human Resources).
Grant Dixton (Chief Legal Officer) will report to Linda Norman (Corporate Vice President, Gaming CELA).
Armin Zerza (Chief Financial Officer) will continue to report to Tim Stuart (Corporate Vice President, Finance), as we previously announced to the Finance team in October.
Thomas, Brian, Julie, Grant and Armin will continue to help us with the transition through March 2024.
Lulu Meservey (Executive Vice President, Corporate Affairs and Chief Communications Officer) will be leaving ABK at the end of January. She has agreed to support Kari Perez (General Manager, Communications) on a leadership transition plan for the ABK Communications team, which will report to Kari. Additionally, Humam Sakhnini (Vice Chairman, Blizzard and King) will depart at the end of December. We thank Humam and Lulu for their leadership over the past year.
For most of you, your day-to-day work will remain the same—it’s still business as usual in bringing more groundbreaking experiences to more players around the world. 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. We have an exciting 2024 lineup of games across Activision, Bethesda, Blizzard, King and Xbox Game Studios, and I know that we all look forward to sharing more details with our player communities when the time is right.
Matt Booty’s memo to staff:
Today, we are delighted to welcome the talented game development teams from Activision Publishing, Blizzard and King to our Game Studios and Content organization. Together with Xbox Game Studios and Bethesda our studios organization will continue our mission to build world-class games that entertain and inspire players and create lasting communities of dedicated fans.
In addition, today we are announcing Jill Braff as Head of the ZeniMax/Bethesda studios. Jill has a wealth of experience in games and entertainment, with previous roles at Nintendo, Sega, Glu Mobile, Home Shopping Network and at Warner Bros. building the online and marketing business for the Ellen DeGeneres Show. She was our leader for the integration work when ZeniMax/Bethesda joined Xbox, and through that work she has come to know many of their teams and leaders well.
Jill will be responsible for leading the ZeniMax/Bethesda game development teams, which will continue to operate as limited integration entities, as well as continuing to oversee the Microsoft Casual Games team. Reporting to Jill will be Todd Howard, Todd Vaughn, Matt Firor, Paul Jensen, and Heather Cooper.
Jamie Leder will remain in his role as CEO of ZeniMax/Bethesda, reporting to me, and will continue supporting the ongoing integration work. To support the development of the ZeniMax/Bethesda portfolio of games, Robert Gray (ZeniMax Quality Assurance) and Timothy Beggs (ZeniMax Release Management) will move to report Todd Vaughn.
Building on the successful launch of Starfield, all the ZeniMax/Bethesda studios are poised to create some of the most exciting and innovative games in the industry. I am confident that Jill’s leadership and support of the teams, along with her proven ability to build meaningful bridges back to Xbox, will further empower everyone at Bethesda to bring amazing experiences to our players.
I want to thank each of you for your dedication and hard work. The best part of leadership at Xbox is the opportunity to see across all our projects and engage with all our teams. I’m excited for 2024 and our slate of games over the next 18 months is looking strong. Together we can create amazing, memorable experiences for our players, built in a culture that empowers everyone to be their most authentic selves and do their best work.