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Robert Kotick

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Robert A. Kotick
Bobby Kotick in NYC photographed by Jordan Matter.jpg
Born 1963 (age 52–53)
Other names Bobby Kotick
Alma mater University of Michigan
Occupation CEO of Activision Blizzard, member of Board of Directors of The Coca-Cola Company
Years active 1983–present
Known for Activision/Blizzard Entertainment merger into Activision Blizzard (2007), founding Call of Duty Endowment (2009), King Digital Entertainment acquisition (2016)
Website BobbyKotick.org

Robert "Bobby" Kotick (born 1963)[1] is an American businessman who currently serves as president and CEO of Activision Blizzard, a member of the S&P 500.[2] Activision Blizzard is known for developing and publishing popular entertainment franchises such as Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Candy Crush, StarCraft, Farm Heroes, Skylanders and Guitar Hero. The company had net revenues of $4.66 billion in 2015,[3] and ended the year with a market value of $29.0 billion.[3] Kotick controls approximately 175 million shares of Activision Blizzard[4] worth approximately $4.66 billion as of February 11, 2016.[3] After Larry Ellison stepped down as CEO of Oracle, Kotick became the longest-serving CEO of any public technology company, having been in his role for 25 years.[5]

After starting his business career as co-founder of a software development company in the 1980s[6] and subsequently working with Leisure Concepts,[7] in 1990[8] Kotick purchased 9% of the stock in the video game company Activision.[9] He became CEO in 1991.[1] A member of the board of directors of The Coca-Cola Company since 2012,[10] Kotick also serves on the boards of The Center for Early Education, the Harvard Westlake School,[11] the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and is the founder and co-chairman of the Call of Duty Endowment, a non-profit that helps unemployed veterans start careers after they complete military service.[11] In 2015, Adweek named Kotick No. 27 on its annual Top 100 Leaders in Media list.[12]

Early life and education

Robert "Bobby" Kotick was born in 1963[1] in the United States and he grew up in New York City and Long Island. After graduation, he attended the University of Michigan to study art history and literature.[9]

Career

Early ventures (1980s)

Kotick began his career as a software developer in 1983 while he was at the University of Michigan.[8][13] Kotick was a passionate video game player, spending hours playing games like Sierra's Mystery House and Defender,[13] and he soon began developing software for the Apple II.[9][14] Kotick credits Steve Jobs for advising him to drop out of college to pursue his entrepreneurial interests in the software business.[15] In 1983[8][13] casino mogul Steve Wynn, his longtime mentor, became an investor. Wynn contributed $300,000 in startup capital for the new venture.[9][14] In 1985[6][9] Kotick became a software developer on the Electronic Arts platform, and worked on Deluxe Write mainly for the Amiga.[14] In 1987 Kotick tried to acquire Commodore International, with plans to remove the keyboard and disk drive from the Amiga 500 and turn it into the first 16 bit video game system. When Kotick was unsuccessful in persuading Commodore's then-Chairman Irving Gould to sell control of the company,[8][13] he purchased a controlling stake in Leisure Concepts, Nintendo's licensing agent,[13] which was renamed to 4Kids Entertainment in 1995.[16] At LCI, Kotick served as CEO and Chairman from June to December 1990.[7]

Purchase of Activision (1990s)

Main article: Activision

In December 1990,[8][13] Kotick and his business partner Brian Kelly bought a 25% stake in the gaming company Activision (then called Mediagenic) for $400,000.[8] Kotick purchased 9% of the stock,[9] and became CEO in February 1991.[1] According to Kotick, he bought the stake partly out of his love for old Activision titles such as Kaboom! as well as Infocom games.[8] Despite the fact that Activision was $30 million in debt and insolvent, Kotick stated he saw an opportunity to remake classic Activision games.[9] After moving Activision to Los Angeles in 1992, Kotick raised $40 million for the company in a stock offering,[9] and set out to build what he described as "an institutional quality, well managed company with a focus on the independent developer."[13] In a June 14, 2010 interview with gaming blog Kotaku, Kotick stated "part of the whole philosophy of Activision was whether you’re owned outright or not, if you’re a studio you have control of your destiny, you could make decisions about who to hire, flexibility on what products to make, how to make them, schedules appropriate to make them, budgets."[14]

Kotick oversaw a number of acquisitions for Activision starting in the early 1990s.[6][9] From 1997 and 2003 he bought nine video game studios, and built several new ones.[9] Activision's Neversoft studio released Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater in 1999, which became a major hit as a games franchise.[9] Kotick helped fund Infinity Ward, which released Activision's blockbuster franchise Call of Duty in 2003.[9] Kotick also oversaw Activision's $90 million acquisition of RedOctane in 2006, which brought the Guitar Hero franchise to Activision.[13]

Activision Blizzard merger and growth (2008–2012)

Main article: Activision Blizzard

Kotick initiated the merger of Activision and Blizzard Entertainment in 2008, and became CEO of the combined company – Activision Blizzard, Inc. – on July 9 of that year.[17] That year, Kotick was named a finalist for the 2008 MarketWatch CEO of the Year award,[13] and the following year Activision Blizzard had an overall market value of $12.3 billion.[9] Since the company's inception, Kotick has used Activision Blizzard's industry position to push for changes that he has maintained would benefit the gaming community as a whole.[18] In October 2009, Kotick founded the Call of Duty Endowment, a non-profit with the mission of placing veterans into high-quality careers.[11] He put pressure on Sony to lower the price of the PlayStation 3 console in 2009.[18] In the summer of 2010, Kotick urged the British government to encourage game companies to invest in the U.K.’s pool of game developers by giving these companies the same kinds of tax incentives provided by Canada, Singapore and eastern bloc countries.[19] In 2010 Kotick launched an Independent Games Competition with $500,000 in total available prize money for small developers working with new platforms,[20] and he has stated that "keeping passion in game development" is something that's important to him.[8]

By 2010, Activision Blizzard was the largest video games publisher in the world.[19] The 2011 release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 grossed $400 million in the US and UK alone in its first 24 hours, making it the biggest entertainment launch of all time.[21] 2011 was the third year in a row that the Call Of Duty series broke the biggest launch record; 2010's Call of Duty: Black Ops grossed $360 million on day one; and in 2009 Modern Warfare 2 brought in $310 million.[22] In 2011, Activision Blizzard debuted its Skylanders franchise.[23] With this launch, the press has credited Kotick's team with inventing a new "toys-to-life" category.[23][24][25] The first release Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure was nominated for two Toy Industry Association awards in 2011: "Game of the Year" and "Innovative Toy of the Year".[26] Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure and its sequels were released for major consoles and PC, and many were released on mobile devices as well.[23]

New franchises and S&P 500 (2013–2015)

In July 2013, Activision Blizzard announced that it would purchase company shares from parent company Vivendi.[27][28] In December 2013 the Los Angeles Times reported that Kotick had "[orchestrated] a complex $8.2 billion deal that returned control of the company over to its public shareholders."[29] That year Kotick was named the tenth most influential CEO of the NASDAQ 100.[2] At the time, Kotick was the second highest compensated CEO in the United States, earning $64.9 million USD, mostly in stock.[30] Also in 2013, the company released Call of Duty: Ghosts, which was written by screenwriter Stephen Gaghan.[29] When Call of Duty: Ghosts was released, Kotick stated "the talent of Hollywood … for the first time is engaged and interested in our medium in a way where they feel like they actually can help move the art form forward.”[29] On its first release day the game sold $1 billion into retail.[31]

Under Kotick, the company released a new title, Destiny, on September 9, 2014. The game made over $500 million in retail sales on the first day of release, setting a record for the biggest first day launch of a new gaming franchise.[31] After Larry Ellison stepped down as CEO of Oracle in 2014, Kotick became the longest-serving CEO of any public technology company, having been in his role for 25 years.[5] Activision Blizzard had net revenues of $4.41 billion in 2014, and at that time had a market value of $19.4 billion.[32] According to Activision Blizzard’s 2014 annual report, a $100 investment in Activision Blizzard in the mid-1990s would have returned over $4,400 to date, “almost nine times more than the $520 the S&P 500 would have returned in that same period of time and almost five times more than Berkshire Hathaway.”[33]

On September 15, 2015, Bungie and Activision Publishing released Destiny: The Taken King, the follow up to the Destiny saga. Two days later Sony announced that the game broke the record for the most downloaded day-one game in PlayStation history, in terms of both total players and peak online concurrency.[34] The company released the next iteration of the Skylanders franchise in September 2015, which added vehicles to the “toys to life” category.[35] Activision Blizzard joined the S&P 500 on August 28, 2015, with Kotick stating "we believe we are well-positioned for long-term growth."[36] On October 21, 2015, Activision Blizzard launched a new eSports division to focus on professional gaming. Kotick explained that "celebrating our players and their unique skill, dedication and commitment is the essence of our eSports initiatives."[37]

Recent acquisitions and growth (2015–2016)

On November 2, 2015, Activision Blizzard announced its plans to acquire King Digital Entertainment - creators of franchises Candy Crush, Farm Heroes, Pet Saga and Bubble Witch - for $5.9 billion. Upon announcement of the news, USA Today reported that “the deal gives Activision immediate access to the growing mobile gaming audience, the fastest-rising sector in video games.”[38] After the deal was announced, Wall Street Journal reporter Greg Bensinger dubbed Kotick the “King of Fun.”[39]

On November 6, 2015, the company launched Activision Blizzard Studios, a television and film studio devoted to creating original content based on the company's extensive library of intellectual properties. Kotick described the new studios as "yet another way we're celebrating our players and fans, and we expect that our film and television productions will entertain and delight whole new audiences.”[40] The Financial Times published a profile on Kotick the day that Activision Blizzard Studios was launched.[41] The reporter opined the new studio would likely produce blockbusters, stating that Kotick's "knack for blockbusters is the envy of his Hollywood friends.”[41] In the article, film studio executive Jeffrey Katzenberg praised Kotick's storytelling, stating "He’s a great storyteller. I don’t think I could touch him at his game.”[41]

On January 6, 2016, Activision Blizzard acquired the business of Major League Gaming (MLG), which is known for creating and streaming premium live gaming events, organizing high-profile professional competitions, and running competitive gaming leagues. The acquisition expanded Activision Blizzard's esports reach by adding additional live streaming capabilities and technologies to the Activision Blizzard Media Networks division.[42] CNBC’s Jim Cramer praised the deal, calling it "another great acquisition by Bobby Kotick… he just keeps hitting it out of the park."[43]

On February 23, 2016, Activision Blizzard closed its acquisition of King Digital Entertainment. Activision Blizzard as a result operates the world's largest game network,[44] reaching over 500 million users[44] in 196 countries.[45] About the King acquisition, Kotick explained that "we see great opportunities to create new ways for audiences to experience their favorite franchises, from Candy Crush to World of Warcraft to Call of Duty and more, across mobile devices, consoles and personal computers."[44]

Film

Kotick had an uncredited cameo role in the 2011 film Moneyball,[46] directed by his close friend Bennett Miller,[47] where he played the owner of the Oakland Athletics baseball team Stephen Schott.[29] Reuters reported that he agreed to appear in the film if Miller would direct a short film to support Kotick's Call of Duty Endowment non-profit.[47]

Blog coverage

Frequently featured in business and mainstream media, Kotick has also attracted attention from video game industry press.[14] He has advocated a business strategy focused on developing intellectual property[48] that could be leveraged over a long period of time, with less frequent publication of new titles that cannot guarantee sequels.[49] Kotick described this business strategy as "narrow and deep" or "annualizable" and cited it as key to attracting development talent who may not be drawn to "speculative franchises."[48]

After a 2008 Ars Technica story opined that Kotick didn't seem like the type to play his own games,[50] gaming blog Kotaku reported that Kotick discussed a passion for video games that "has never really gone away," and "rattle[d] off an impressive list of consoles he's owned in the past and games he loved."[14] Kotick has described a reluctance to get overly involved in the creative process behind his company's releases, citing it as a measure to protect the games' integrity.[14] He also stated that "keeping passion in game development" is important to him.[8]

A number of press outlets covered his response[51][52][53] to a question posed on the Q2 2009 earnings call regarding his "comfort level" around prices attached to "new games that have some expensive controllers."[54] After some gaming bloggers criticized Kotick's defense of the pricing,[51][52][53] Kotick later assured interviewers that profit wasn't his only concern, as "I want to make sure that every one of the games is a lasting franchise that is the very best game it could be."[14]

Boards and non-profits

Kotick is currently a board member for The Center for Early Education,[6] the Harvard Westlake School,[11] and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA),[6] where as a vice chairman[55] he has donated several works of art and funded various programs, including those focused on arts education.[56] In a November 2015 profile on Kotick in the Financial Times, the director of the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art stated about Kotick, "He’s very generous and has been key to assembling the next generation of philanthropists.”[41] On February 16, 2012, Kotick was elected an outside director of The Coca-Cola Company, and he was also appointed to Coca-Cola's Management Development Committee.[10] Previously,[6] he served on the board of 4Kids Entertainment starting in 1990,[1][6] and as a Yahoo! board member from March 2003[1][57] to August 2008.[58]

Kotick is the founder and co-chairman of the Call of Duty Endowment,[11] a non-profit public benefit corporation that places veterans into high-quality careers.[11][59] Co-chairman General James Jones is a former U.S. National Security Advisor.[60] Upon its founding in 2009, the organization announced a commitment to create thousands of career opportunities for veterans, including those returning from the Middle East.[11] Annual awards given by the endowment include the “Seal of Distinction,” a $30,000 initial grant given to selected veteran’s service organizations.[61] In November 2014, the endowment launched the “Race to 1,000 Jobs” campaign to encourage gamers to donate money to and get involved in organizations that provide veterans with services.[62] As of 2015, the Call of Duty Endowment had provided around $12 million in grants to veterans’ organizations in the United States, which had helped place 14,700 veterans in jobs.[63] In August 2016, the endowment announced it had funded the placement of 25,000 veterans into careers, its original goal for 2018. The organization set a new goal of placing 50,000 veterans by 2019.[64][65]

Personal life

Kotick is native of Long Island, New York.[66] He is divorced[67] and resides in California with his family.[66]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Nominee Category Result
2008 MarketWatch Awards Robert Kotick CEO of the Year[13] Finalist
Vanity Fair Rankings 2008 New Establishment List[68] No. 72
2009 2009 New Establishment List[69] No. 94
2015 Adweek Top 100 Leaders in Media [12] No. 27

See also

References

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External links