Blizzard president and HR exec departed after staff protests, harassment lawsuit

Blizzard Entertainment president J. Allen Brack is leaving the company to “pursue new opportunities.”

Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra have been appointed co-leaders of Blizzard, effective immediately, having most recently served as EVP of development and EVP and general manager of platform and technology, respectively.

The news comes after the state of California sued Activision Blizzard for cultivating a “frat boy” workplace culture. The lawsuit contained a number of serious harassment and bullying claims, which Activision Blizzard initially denounced as “false” and “distorted” descriptions of Blizzard’s past. Brack was also mentioned by name in the suit for allegedly failing to punish repeat offenders at Blizzard.

That underwhelming and incoherent response eventually prompted Activision Blizzard staff to stage a walkout in protest, while even more stories of misconduct have surfaced in the days since.

Activision Blizzard president and COO Daniel Alegre informed Blizzard staff of Brack’s departure earlier today, and said its new leaders are “committed to ensuring our workplace is the most inspired, welcoming environment for creative excellence and to upholding our highest game development standards.”

In another statement addressed directly to the Blizzard community, the World of Warcraft developer Oneal and Ybarra will focus on ensuring the company “is the safest, most welcoming workplace for women, and people of any gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or background.” Brack himself also claimed that the duo would be able to “accelerate the pace of change” at the company.

“I am confident that Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra will provide the leadership Blizzard needs to realize its full potential and will accelerate the pace of change,” said Brack. “I anticipate that 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.”

UPDATE 9:45 AM ET: Gamasutra reached out to Activision Blizzard for more context on Brack’s departure, and specifically asked whether it came as a result of the recent lawsuit, allegations, and staff walkout.

Although the company stopped just short of directly referring those events, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said it was decided that “new direction and leadership” was needed to take the company forward.

“It became clear to J. Allen Brack and Activision Blizzard leadership that Blizzard Entertainment needs a new direction and leadership given the critical work ahead in terms of workplace culture, game development, and innovation,” they commented.

UPDATE 4:30 PM ET: Tuesday has brought news of a second notable Blizzard departure. Bloomberg reports that Jesse Meschuk, Blizzard’s now-former senior people officer, has departed the company. Bloomberg lists Meschuk as Blizzard’s “top HR representative” at the time of his departure. Meschuk himself has served in various HR roles for more than a decade, meaning it’s difficult to imagine the timing of his departure is unrelated to the stories of misconduct and discrimination mentioned above.

In the time since the State of California’s lawsuit came to light, Activision Blizzard’s HR practices have come under a fair amount of scrutiny. The latest comes in the form of an Axios story chronicling the experiences of a dozen current and former Activision Blizzard employees that say the HR department specifically failed them by disregarding concerns or reacting to complaints in ways that felt to punish the reporter rather than the offender.

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