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Activision Blizzard CEO Addresses Recent Layoffs

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick will forgo half his salary.
Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick will forgo half his salary. / Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick explained the company's decision to lay off around 50 employees in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic in a GamesBeat interview Thursday.

Kotick said the elimination of live esports broadcasts as a result of the pandemic made many of those jobs untenable.

"When you abandon a particular business, like our live broadcast of esports, we hoped over the last year that through the pandemic we would get to a place where we would be able to continue to move on the path to support live events in our esports initiatives," he said.

"We saw all the major sports started to change what they were doing in terms of production and production headcount. We kept the teams in place for as long as we could with the expectation that maybe things would change and we could get back to being able to do live events. But after a year we realized it was going to take more time to be back in the live events business."

Kotick offered no explanation for the 800 layoffs Activision Blizzard enacted in 2019 despite financial results he himself described as "the best in our history."

The news comes the day after an Activision Blizzard SEC filing showed Kotick would forgo half his salary and his target annual bonus. Kotick's salary will be $875,000, down from $1.75m. The bonus cut could be "a potential reduction of $1,750,000" for the 2021 and 2022 fiscal years.

The filing says the new payment program "reflects shareholder feedback, incorporates market best practices and continues to directly connect pay to performance." That shareholder feedback likely included complaints over Kotick's extravagant payment while Activision Blizzard employees reportedly make less than a third of 1% of Kotick's income on average.

It's notable Kotick is willing to take a salary cut now, but didn't take one during either round of layoffs, opting instead to cut off employment for hundreds of people during the deadliest pandemic in decades.