J. Allen Brack, the head of Blizzard Entertainment, has stepped down from his position as president, the company announced Tuesday. Activision Blizzard told staff Tuesday morning that Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra will “co-lead” the company.
Activision Blizzard employees walked out of work last week to protest leadership response to a lawsuit that alleged “constant sexual harassment” and sexism at the company.
Oneal previously acted as executive vice president of development, while Ybarra led platform and technology at the company. Oneal also previously led Vicarious Visions, which Blizzard acquired in January. Ybarra was previously at Microsoft, serving as corporate vice president for Xbox Live and Xbox Game Pass. He joined Blizzard in 2019.
“Both leaders are deeply committed to all of our employees; to the work ahead to ensure Blizzard is the safest, most welcoming workplace possible for women, and people of any gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or background; to upholding and reinforcing our values; and to rebuilding your trust,” a Blizzard spokesperson said in a statement. “With their many years of industry experience and deep commitment to integrity and inclusivity, Jen and Mike will lead Blizzard with care, compassion, and a dedication to excellence. You’ll hear more from Jen and Mike soon.”
Brack issued a statement published on the Blizzard website:
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. 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.
Brack’s departure from the studio comes not long after its parent company, Activision Blizzard, was sued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) for creating a “frat boy culture” that allowed gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment to proliferate. The lawsuit alleges that Brack knew about the behavior because he had received complaints directly, and that he did little to stop it beyond disciplinary actions that amounted to “a slap on the wrist.”
A 15-year Blizzard veteran, Brack had been the company’s president since October 2018, when then-president and -CEO Mike Morhaime decided to step down and pass the baton to him. Prior to his ascension to studio head, Brack served for many years as a leader of the World of Warcraft development team. Morhaime, who co-founded Blizzard in 1991, described Brack at the time of his promotion as “an inspiring leader who has shown unwavering commitment to Blizzard’s community.”
Immediately following the lawsuit, Activision Blizzard made an official statement in which it said the lawsuit included “distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past.” Internally, various executives published statements; Brack, in one of these letters, called the allegations “extremely troubling.”
Activision Blizzard executive and former George W. Bush homeland security adviser Frances Townsend called the lawsuit “truly meritless and irresponsible” in a statement that’s since been criticized by current and former staff. Thousands of Activision Blizzard employees signed a letter asking for Townsend to step down as the executive sponsor of the women’s network. Following the letter, Activision Blizzard employees in California and elsewhere walked out of work in protest of leadership response.
Townsend later tweeted about “The Problem with Whistleblowing,” a story published in The Atlantic in July. The curious timing for the tweet — immediately following major whistleblowing at Activision Blizzard — did not sit well with current and former employees, who responded in turn with criticism. Townsend reportedly began blocking current employees speaking out against her.