Activision Blizzard has announced that J. Allen Brack will be stepping down from his role as Blizzard president, which is effective beginning today. Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra will be taking the reins as co-leaders of the studio in his place. Brack’s departure comes at a time of much controversy for Activision Blizzard, as the company finds itself embroiled in a far-reaching sexual harassment scandal.
Jen Oneal formerly served as the head of Vicarious Visions before joining Blizzard in January, stepping into the role of executive vice president of development and working on the Diablo and Overwatch franchises. Mike Ybarra was closely associated with Xbox for a number of years but joined Blizzard in 2019 as executive vice president and general manager of platform and technology – a position that puts him in charge of Battle.net.
“Both leaders are deeply committed to all of our employees; to the work ahead to ensure Blizzard is the safest, most welcoming workplace possible for women, and people of any gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or background; to upholding and reinforcing our values; and to rebuilding your trust,” Activision Blizzard wrote in today’s announcement. “With their many years of industry experience and deep commitment to integrity and inclusivity, Jen and Mike will lead Blizzard with care, compassion, and a dedication to excellence. You’ll hear more from Jen and Mike soon.”
J. Allen Brack also delivered a message to fans in today’s announcement, but it was entirely devoid of the tone we’re used to hearing when high-profile executives leave a company. Instead, Brack’s message was short and to the point, focusing mostly on Ybarra and Oneal taking over without mentioning the controversy surrounding his departure or his time at Blizzard:
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. I anticipate 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.
A couple of weeks ago, the state of California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit [PDF] against Activision Blizzard following an investigation that found numerous examples of discrimination against female employees and a “frat boy” culture at the company that led to “constant sexual harassment.” Activision Blizzard employees staged a walkout last week regarding the lawsuit, and in the time since the lawsuit was first announced, more reports of sexual harassment at the company have surfaced.
Brack was named in that lawsuit, with the DFEH saying that Blizzard employees filed “numerous complaints about unlawful harassment, discrimination, and retaliation,” to Activision Blizzard’s HR personnel and executives including Brack but noting that the company “failed to take effective remedial measures in response to these complaints.” As more reports of sexual harassment mount in the wake of this lawsuit, Brack is the first high-profile departure from the company.