|Born||1963 (age 57–58)|
|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 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.
Robert A. Kotick was born in 1963 in the US, and grew up in New York. 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. He studied art history at the University of Michigan in the early 1980s.
While Kotick was still a student in 1983 at the University of Michigan, he started a technology company called Arktronics with friend Howard Marks in their dorm room. The two developed software for the Apple II. During his sophomore year, Kotick met and pitched Steve Wynn to invest in Arktronics. Wynn later invested $300,000 in the company. 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.
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. He subsequently purchased a controlling stake in Leisure Concepts, Nintendo's licensing agent, which was renamed 4Kids Entertainment.
In December 1990, Kotick and his partner Brian Kelly bought a 25% stake in the almost-bankrupt Activision, then known as Mediagenic. He changed the name back to Activision, performed a full restructuring of the company, and refocused the company on video games. Kotick became CEO of Activision in February 1991. From 1997 to 2003, Activision acquired nine development studios and released its first hit game in 1995.
At Activision, Kotick set out to build "an institutional quality, well-managed company with a focus on the independent developer." 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."
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.
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. Kotick engineered the Activision Blizzard merger, which created a new company, Activision Blizzard. Shareholders of Activision Blizzard approved Kotick as CEO of the combined company on July 9, 2008. Kotick said he aimed to build on Blizzard's successes in the Asian market to introduce Activision's games there.
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."
Bobby Kotick and Andrew Gordon, head of Goldman Sachs investment banking division in Los Angeles, created Cove Management as a company to manage a private Gulfstream III private jet they jointly owned. They hired former actress Cynthia Madvig as a flight attendant.
In 2006, pilot Phil Berg allegedly began a pattern of sexual harassment towards Madvig. She reported this to Gordon, who ignored her complaints. Shortly after she reported this harassment, Kotick fired her.
In January 2007, Madvig filed a lawsuit for sexual harassment, wrongful termination, failure to prevent sexual harassment, and retaliation against her for reporting sexual harassment. Kotick, Gordon, and Berg denied all allegations in February 2007. At this time, they were represented by law firm Sullivan & Cromwell.
In April 2007, Kotick, who led the defense, switched attorneys to Christensen, Glaser, Fink, Jacobs, Weil & Shapiro. Patricia Glaser advised them to settle for $200,000. Kotick refused on principle, alleged by the arbitrator that "[he] would not be extorted and that [he] would ruin the Plaintiff and her attorney and see to it that Ms. Madvig would never work again."
Christensen, Glaser et al stopped representing Kotick in December 2007. Kotick hired the firm Bingham McCutcheon and then, in April 2008, also hired Gibson Dunn & Crutcher. Kotick, Gordon, Berg, and Cove settled with Madvig in April 2008, paying $200,000 plus Madvig's legal fees of $475,000.
Kotick paid Glaser's firm $200,000 in September 2007, stating that amount was a full settlement of their fees and costs. Glaser disagreed, claiming that the total amount owed was over $1 million. Following Kotick's settlement with Madvig, his dispute with Glaser's firm went into arbitration. In February 2009, Glaser's firm was awarded $938,458 plus $479,898 for legal fees and costs incurred in the arbitration, for a total of $1.42 million.
Kotick, who during the Madvig case stated that "[he] was worth one-half billion dollars and he didn't mind spending some of it on attorneys' fees" rather than settle, asked the court to reduce the award by $111,753. The court denied this request and ordered Kotick to pay Glaser in full. Kotick appealed to the California Court of Appeal. On July 6, 2010, the appeal court affirmed the lower court's ruling.
In October 2016, Kotick announced the creation of Activision Blizzard's Overwatch League. Earlier that same year, Activision had acquired companies such as King and Major League Gaming. 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.
In 2019, Kotick's total compensation at Activision Blizzard fell to $30.1 million, 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. 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. The contract locks him in until 2021. 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. A 180% increase in Activision Blizzard's share price since March 2016 triggered an incentive bonus in Kotick's 2016 contract. Though media report the bonus at $200 million, the company itself says that the size of the bonus has not yet been determined.
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.
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."
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.
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. 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.
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.
Honors and recognition
- Featured on the LA Business Times LA500 from 2016 to 2020
- Ranked 50th in Vanity Fair's 2016 New Establishment List.
- Ranked 75th on Harvard Business Review's 2016 Best Performing CEOs in the World.
- Ranked 24th in 2016 and 27th in 2015 on the Adweek list of Top 100 Leaders in Media.
Business strategy controversy
Some statements Kotick has made about his business strategy have led to controversy. 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. 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." 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." 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."
A native of Long Island, New York, Kotick resides in California with his family. He and his wife divorced in late 2012. Kotick dated Sheryl Sandberg from 2016 to 2019. His home in Beverly Hills is filled with Abstract Expressionist art. Kotick has donated to University of Michigan sports.
Kotick identifies as a libertarian, and in 2007 and 2008 donated to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. He endorsed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the run-up for the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
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- Media related to Robert Kotick at Wikimedia Commons