|Alma mater||University of Michigan|
|Title||CEO of Activision Blizzard|
|Board member of||The Coca-Cola Company|
Robert A. Kotick (born 1963) is an American businessman who serves as 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.
Kotick began his career in 1983 while he was still in college at the University of Michigan, when he began creating software for the Apple II with financial backing from Steve Wynn. Kotick credits Steve Jobs for advising him to drop out of college to pursue his entrepreneurial interests in the software business.
In 1987, he 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. He subsequently purchased a controlling stake in Leisure Concepts, Nintendo's licensing agent, which was renamed 4Kids Entertainment.
Kotick and his partner Brian Kelly bought a 25% stake in Activision in December 1990, and became CEO in February 1991. 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.
At Activision, Kotick set out to build "an institutional quality, well managed company with a focus on the independent developer." In a 14 June 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."
Kotick engineered the Activision Blizzard merge, and stockholders of Activision Blizzard approved Kotick as CEO of the combined company on 9 July 2008. In 2009, as reported by Forbes magazine, Robert Kotick received approximately $3.2 million USD in salary, benefits, options and incentives for his work with Activision Blizzard, of which $953,654 was his actual salary. By 2013, Kotick was the second highest compensated CEO in the United States, earning $64.9 million USD, mostly in stock.
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. 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. 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."
In October 2009, under Kotick's direction, Activision Blizzard launched Call of Duty Endowment, a non-profit public benefit corporation, which helps soldiers transition to civilian careers after their military service, with a commitment to create thousands of jobs for veterans including those returning from the Middle East. Kotick recruited an advisory board composed of veterans representing the various service branches.
In October 2016, Kotick confirmed the creation of Activision Blizzard's Overwatch League. In November 2016, Activision Blizzard inked a deal with Kotick where he might receive bonuses if certain financial benchmarks were met concerning M&A. Earlier that same year, Activision had acquired companies such as King and Major League Gaming. In late 2016, he was given a pay hike because the company was performing well, with a contract that locks him in until 2021. In June 2017 it was Fortune who said that Kotick had become “the longest-serving head of any publicly traded tech company.” Under him, the company was still developing films about its video games, and coming out with new video game sporting projects.
Boards of Directors
Kotick was also a Yahoo! board member from March 2003 to August 2008, and is currently a board member for the Center for Early Education, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Tony Hawk Foundation.
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Kotick has at times been a controversial figure in the gaming community. In part this can be attributed to advocating a business strategy focused on only developing intellectual property which can be, in his words, "exploited" over a long period, to the exclusion of new titles which cannot guarantee sequels. In responding to why Activision Blizzard chose not to publish certain games following the Activision/Blizzard merger, he stated that focusing on franchises that "have the potential to be exploited every year on every platform with clear sequel potential and have the potential to become $100 million franchises" has "worked very well for Activision Blizzard". 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". Kotick also created a stir when commenting on Activision Blizzard's peripheral-driven franchises. During Activision Blizzard's Q2 2009 financial results conference, Kotick was challenged over his "comfort level" around high prices attached to "new games that have some expensive controllers" and said, "if it was left to me, I would raise the prices even further." While Spong took the comment at face value, Gamesindustry.biz thought the comment was a joke, but could be seen as "insensitive at a time when consumers are likely to be feeling the economic pinch".
A frequent complaint from the gaming press is the gap between Kotick and Activision's chief consumers. Ars Technica editor Ben Kuchera wrote, "Kotick doesn't play his games, and it shows." Video game developer Tim Schafer said Kotick "doesn't have to be as much of a dick" in his attitude towards Activision's customers. Gaming blog Kotaku reported, however, that Kotick confessed to 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."
A native of Long Island, New York, Kotick resides in California with his family. He and his wife divorced in late 2012. He had a cameo role in the 2011 film Moneyball. Kotick has donated to University of Michigan sports.
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