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Bobby Kotick

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Bobby Kotick
Bobby Kotick photo.jpg
Kotick in 2012
Born1963 (age 56–57)
United States
Alma materUniversity of Michigan
OccupationBusinessman
TitleCEO of Activision Blizzard
Board member ofThe Coca-Cola Company

Robert A. Kotick (born 1963) is an American businessman who currently serves as the chief executive officer (CEO) of Activision Blizzard. He was the head of several technology companies early in his career. He purchased a stake in Activision in 1990 and became CEO the next year. Kotick engineered the Activision Blizzard merger, and he became CEO of the combined company in 2008. He is on several company boards. From 2003 until 2008, he was a director at Yahoo!. In February 2012, he became a non-executive director of The Coca-Cola Company. He has also served on the board of the Call of Duty Endowment (CODE) since he co-founded the organization in 2009.[1]

Early life

Robert A. Kotick was born in 1963 in the US, and grew up in New York.[2][3] His interest in business began at an early age. In junior high school, Kotick had his own business cards, and in high school, he ran a business renting out Manhattan clubs on off nights.[4] He studied art history at the University of Michigan in the early 1980s.[5][6]

Career

Early career

While Kotick was still a student in 1983 at the University of Michigan,[6][7] he started a technology company called Arktronics with friend Howard Marks in their dorm room. The two developed software for the Apple II[8] During his sophomore year, Kotick met and pitched Steve Wynn to invest in Arktronics. Wynn later invested $300,000 in the company.[9] Steve Jobs heard about Arktronics' software. He met with Kotick and Marks in Ann Arbor and advised them to drop out of college to focus on the software business. Kotick took the advice and left the University of Michigan to focus all of his time on his company[10]

In 1987, Kotick tried to acquire Commodore International. He planned to remove the keyboard and disk drive from the Amiga 500 and turn it into the first 16-bit video game system. He was unsuccessful in persuading Commodore's then-Chairman Irving Gould to sell control of the company.[6][7] He subsequently purchased a controlling stake in Leisure Concepts, Nintendo's licensing agent,[7] which was renamed 4Kids Entertainment.[11]

In December 1990, Kotick and his partner Brian Kelly bought a 25% stake in Mediagenic, a bankrupt software company that Atari programmers founded in 1979 as Activision. He changed the name back to Activision, performed a full restructuring of the company, and refocused the company on video games.[6][7] Kotick became CEO of Activision in February 1991.[11] From 1997 to 2003, Activision acquired nine development studios and released its first hit game in 1995.[12]

At Activision, Kotick set out to build "an institutional quality, well-managed company with a focus on the independent developer."[7] In a June 14, 2010, interview with gaming blog Kotaku, Kotick stated, "…[P]art 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."[13]

Kotick also served as a founder of International Consumer Technologies and was president from 1986 to January 1995. In 1995, International Consumer Technologies became a wholly owned subsidiary of Activision.[14]

Activision Blizzard

In November 2006, Kotick started discussing a merger with the games division of Vivendi, a French entertainment conglomerate, which included Blizzard Entertainment and Sierra Entertainment.[15] Kotick engineered the Activision Blizzard merger, which created a new company, Activision Blizzard.[16] Shareholders of Activision Blizzard approved Kotick as CEO of the combined company on July 9, 2008.[17] Kotick said he aimed to build on Blizzard's successes in the Asian market to introduce Activision's games there.[18]

Kotick has used Activision Blizzard's industry position to push partners for changes that he maintains would benefit the gaming community. In July 2009, Kotick threatened to stop making games for the PlayStation 3 platform if Sony did not cut the price of the console.[19] Kotick also urged the British government to reward Activision for continuing to invest in the country's pool of game developers by providing Activision with the same kinds of tax incentives provided by Canada, Singapore, and eastern bloc countries.[20] Kotick has launched an Independent Games Competition with $500,000 in total available prize money for small developers working with new platforms and has stated that "keeping passion in game development is something that's important to him."[6][21]

2016–present

In October 2016, Kotick announced the creation of Activision Blizzard's Overwatch League.[22] Earlier that same year, Activision had acquired companies such as King and Major League Gaming.[23] In June 2017, Fortune reported that Kotick had become “the longest-serving head of any publicly traded tech company.” Under him, the company has approved the development of films based on its video games and had developed new esports projects.[24]

Compensation

In 2019, Kotick's total compensation at Activision Blizzard fell to $30.1 million,[25] down from his 2018 package of $31 million in salary, bonus, perks, stock and options. 85% of his 2018 compensation came from stock and options. He was the 21st most highly compensated CEO in the United States that year. He also earned 319 times more than the average Activision Blizzard employee's salary of $97,000 in that year, putting him in 75th place among U.S. CEOs.[26] He is working under a deal inked in November 2016 with Activision Blizzard under which he earns bonuses if Activision Blizzard meets certain financial targets related to mergers and acquisitions.[27] The contract locks him in until 2021.[28] In February 2019, the non-profit organization As You Sow ranked Kotick 45th in a list of the 100 most over-paid chief executive officers of the United States.[29]

Philanthropy, board service and recognition

Boards of directors

Kotick is a non-executive director for The Coca-Cola Company and a board member at the Center for Early Education and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He previously served as a Yahoo! board member from March 2003 to August 2008 and as a board member for the Tony Hawk Foundation.[11][30][31][2]

Philanthropy and partnerships

During the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, Activision Blizzard and other gaming companies partnered with the World Health Organization on the #PlayApartTogether campaign to encourage online social events and promote physical distancing. Kotick said, "It's never been more critical to ensure people stay safely connected to one another. Games are the perfect platform because they connect people through the lens of joy, purpose and meaning. We are proud to participate in such a worthwhile and necessary initiative."[32]

On June 11, 2020, Kotick pledged to donate $1 million and match an additional $1 million in Activision Blizzard employee donations to support the United Negro College Fund, the Equal Justice Initiative, and Management Leadership for Tomorrow.[33]

Call of Duty Endowment

In October 2009, Kotick co-founded the Call of Duty Endowment (CODE), a non-profit benefit corporation, after speaking with former Veteran's Administration Secretary Jim Nicholson about how best to serve veterans.[1] The endowment helps soldiers transition to civilian careers after their military service by funding nonprofit organizations and raising awareness of the value veterans bring to the workplace.[34]

During the COVID-19 crisis, CODE has advocated for employing veteran medics and hospital corpsman as emergency medical technicians and paramedics. Medics are among the most unemployed category of Army veterans.[35]

Honors and recognition

  • Featured on the LA Business Times LA500 from 2016 to 2020[36]
  • Ranked 50th in Vanity Fair's 2016 New Establishment List.[37]
  • Ranked 75th on Harvard Business Review's 2016 Best Performing CEOs in the World.[38][39]
  • Ranked 24th in 2016 and 27th in 2015 on the Adweek list of Top 100 Leaders in Media.[40][41]

Business strategy controversy

Some statements Kotick has made about his business strategy have led to controversy.[13] He has focused on developing intellectual property which can be, in his words, "exploited" over a long period, to the exclusion of new titles which cannot guarantee sequels.[42] 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."[43] During Activision Blizzard's Q2 2009 financial results conference, Kotick was asked about his "comfort level" regarding pricing of some of his new games. After Activision Publishing CEO Mike Griffith answered that there was "strong retailer acceptance and support" for the pricing plan, Kotick joked that "if it was left to me, I would raise the prices even further."[44] Although Phil Elliot of Gamesindustry.biz understood the comment as a joke, he added that the comment could be seen as "insensitive at a time when consumers are likely to be feeling the economic pinch."[45]

Personal life

A native of Long Island, New York, Kotick resides in California with his family.[46] He and his wife divorced in late 2012.[47] His home in Beverly Hills is filled with Abstract Expressionist art.[48] Kotick has donated to University of Michigan sports.[49] Kotick identifies as a libertarian, and in 2007 and 2008 donated to the National Republican Senatorial Committee.[50] He endorsed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the run-up for the 2016 U.S. presidential election.[51]

References

  1. ^ a b "A Gamer Puts Vets to Work:The Call of Duty Endowment separates potent nonprofits from also-rans" (PDF). philanthropyroundtable.org. Retrieved December 17, 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Coca-Cola – Press Center – Press Releases – Board Elects Robert A. Kotick as Director".
  3. ^ Beller, Peter C. (January 15, 2009). "Activision's Unlikely Hero".
  4. ^ "Activision's Unlikely Hero". Forbes. Retrieved May 13, 2020.
  5. ^ Chozick, Amy (December 15, 2012). "At Activision, a Hero and Villain, Zapped Into One". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 13, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d e Simon Carless. "DICE 2010: Kotick Talks Passion For Industry". Gamasutra. Retrieved February 18, 2010.
  7. ^ a b c d e Gallagher, Dan. "Kotick changes the game at Actvision Blizzard". Marketwatch.com.
  8. ^ Chozick, Amy (December 15, 2012). "At Activision, a Hero and Villain, Zapped Into One". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  9. ^ "CNBC TRANSCRIPT: CNBC'S BECKY QUICK INTERVIEWS ACTIVISION BLIZZARD CEO BOBBY KOTICK FROM THE CNBC EVOLVE CONFERENCE IN LOS ANGELES TODAY". CNBC. November 19, 2019. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  10. ^ Yukari Iwatani Kane (June 14, 2010). "Activision CEO: Steve Jobs Convinced Me to Quit College". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved June 14, 2010.
  11. ^ a b c "Robert A. Kotick Profile". Forbes. Archived from the original on May 25, 2010. Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  12. ^ Chozick, Amy (December 15, 2012). "At Activision, a Hero and Villain, Zapped Into One". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 3, 2020.
  13. ^ a b Brian Crecente. "A Delightful Chat With the Most Hated Man in Video Games". Kotaku.
  14. ^ "CEO BIO: Robert A. Kotick". Business Week. Archived from the original on July 30, 2010. Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  15. ^ "Activision's Unlikely Hero". Forbes. Retrieved June 23, 2020.
  16. ^ "Activision and Vivendi merge to create video games giant". the Guardian. July 11, 2008. Retrieved June 23, 2020.
  17. ^ "Investors approve Activision Blizzard merger". Video Game Media. Retrieved July 9, 2008.
  18. ^ "Activision and Vivendi merge to create video games giant". the Guardian. July 11, 2008. Retrieved June 23, 2020.
  19. ^ Dan Sabbagh. "Sony should beware – Activision chief is not simply playing games". The Times. London. Retrieved July 19, 2009.
  20. ^ Maija Palmer and Tim Bradshaw. "Computer games industry hits at tax rethink". Financial Times. Retrieved June 30, 2010.
  21. ^ Eric Caoili. "Activision Announces Independent Games Competition". Gamasutra.
  22. ^ "Activision Blizzard CEO confirms Overwatch League". ESPN.
  23. ^ "Don't Be Surprised When Activision Blizzard CEO Does a Big Deal". Bloomberg. November 29, 2016.
  24. ^ "Activision Blizzard Aims for the Big Leagues". Fortune. June 7, 2017.
  25. ^ "Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick's Pay Falls to $30.1M in 2019". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 23, 2020.
  26. ^ Russell, Karl; Williams, Josh (May 24, 2019). "The Highest-Paid C.E.O.s of 2018: A Year So Lucrative, We Had to Redraw Our Chart". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 23, 2020.
  27. ^ "Activision Blizzard's Kotick set for stock windfall". Financial Times. November 25, 2016.
  28. ^ "Don't Be Surprised When Activision Blizzard CEO Does a Big Deal". Bloomberg. November 29, 2016.
  29. ^ "Bobby Kotick and Andrew Wilson make the list of most overpaid U.S. CEOs". VentureBeat. February 25, 2019. Retrieved June 23, 2020.
  30. ^ "It's a done deal: Icahn on Yahoo board". CNET. August 6, 2008. Retrieved September 27, 2008.
  31. ^ "Are You the Next Yahoo! CEO?". The Motley Fool. June 17, 2008. Retrieved September 27, 2008.
  32. ^ "WHO and game companies launch #PlayApartTogether to promote physical distancing". VentureBeat. March 28, 2020. Retrieved July 10, 2020.
  33. ^ "Activision Blizzard pledges millions to fight inequality". ESPN.com. June 11, 2020. Retrieved July 10, 2020.
  34. ^ "Call of Duty Endowment and U.S. Army create Code Bowl esports event for armed forces". VentureBeat. December 5, 2019. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
  35. ^ Miller, Hawken. "As veterans face heightened unemployment risk, 'Call of Duty' lends a hand". Washington Post. Retrieved July 24, 2020.
  36. ^ "Bobby Kotick | Los Angeles Business Journal". labusinessjournal.com. Retrieved July 10, 2020.
  37. ^ Primack, Dan; Coyne, Marley; Nguyen, Tina (2016). "The New Establishment". Vanity Fair. Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  38. ^ "Harvard Business Review ranks Nvidia boss Jen-Hsun Huang as a top 10 best-performing CEO". VentureBeat. October 11, 2016. Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  39. ^ Staff, Harvard Business Review (November 1, 2016). "The Best-Performing CEOs in the World". Harvard Business Review. Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  40. ^ "Adweek's Power List 2016: The Top 100 Leaders in Marketing, Media and Tech". Adweek. Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  41. ^ "Activision's Bobby Kotick, EA's Andrew Wilson make Adweek's top 100 leaders in media". VentureBeat. June 1, 2015. Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  42. ^ "Activision: if we can't run a game into the ground, we don't want it". Ars Technica. November 6, 2008. Retrieved November 7, 2008.
  43. ^ "Activision Blizzard SF2Q09 (Qtr End 9/30/08) Earnings Call Transcript". Seeking Alpha. November 5, 2008. Retrieved October 20, 2009.
  44. ^ "Activision Blizzard Q2 2009 Earnings Call Transcript". Seeking Alpha. August 5, 2009. p. 8. Retrieved October 11, 2009.
  45. ^ Phil Elliott (August 7, 2009). "Kotick Jokes About 'Even Higher' Prices". gamesindustry.biz. Eurogamer Network Ltd. Retrieved November 7, 2009.
  46. ^ Kevin Maney. "Game Boy". Portfolio.com.
  47. ^ Amy Chozick (December 15, 2012). "At Activision, a Hero and Villain, Zapped into One". The New York Times.
  48. ^ Chozick, Amy (December 15, 2012). "At Activision, a Hero and Villain, Zapped Into One". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 10, 2020.
  49. ^ "Jim Harbaugh reveals donors behind UM's European vacations". Detroit News. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  50. ^ Chozick, Amy (December 15, 2012). "At Activision, a Hero and Villain, Zapped Into One". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 10, 2020.
  51. ^ "The Hollywood heavyweights funding the 2016 presidential fight". The Los Angeles Times. October 22, 2015. Archived from the original on November 10, 2015.

External links