Blizzard President J. Allen Brack steps down amid lawsuit fallout

Brack promoting <em>World of Warcraft</em> on stage at Blizzcon 2017.
Enlarge / Brack promoting World of Warcraft on stage at Blizzcon 2017.

Blizzard President J. Allen Brack, who was recently named in a California state discrimination and harassment lawsuit against the company, is leaving “to pursue new opportunities,” the company announced this morning.

In his place, Blizzard Executive VPs Mike Ybarra (a former long-time Xbox executive) and Jen Oneal (formerly head of Vicarious Visions) will serve as studio co-leads starting today. Both have long histories in the game industry but joined Blizzard’s executive team relatively recently—Ybarra in 2019 and Oneal earlier this year, when Vicarious Vision merged into Blizzard. Brack had been at Blizzard for nearly 16 years, including eight as an executive and three as president of the company. Before that, he worked on games like Wing Commander and Star Wars Galaxies.

“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,” Brack said in a statement. “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.”

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing lawsuit specifically named Brack as one of the executives who fielded complaints about “unlawful harassment discrimination and retaliation” from employees and who “failed to take effective remedial measures in response.” The suit also alleges that Brack gave a mere “slap on the wrist” to Alex Afrasiabi, the former senior creative director of World of Warcraft who was eventually removed for “misconduct” surrounding his treatment of female employees.

In an email to staff following the lawsuit last month, Brack said he felt “angry, sad, and a host of other emotions” over alleged behavior that he called “extremely troubling” and “completely unacceptable… I disdain ‘bro culture’ and have spent my career fighting against it. Iterating on our culture with the same intensity that we bring to our games is imperative…”

Brack’s departure comes ahead of Activision Blizzard’s quarterly earnings presentation later today. As of this writing, Activision Blizzard stock is down nearly 5 percent on the day in early trading and down over 16 percent from this time one month ago.

Thousands of Activision Blizzard employees have signed a petition decrying the company’s initial response to the lawsuit, and hundreds took part in a one-day “Walkout for Equality” last week while demanding action on numerous fronts.

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