Blizzard president J Allen Brack is stepping down effective immediately

3 Aug 2021

Image: Defkey/Wikimedia Commons

Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra will take over leadership of the game studio as the fallout from a California discrimination lawsuit continues.

President of Blizzard Entertainment J Allen Brack is stepping down in the wake of widespread allegations of harassment and sexism at the game studio, and a subsequent employee walkout.

The move was announced in a letter circulated to all Blizzard employees today, first reported by Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier. Leadership of the gaming studio will fall to Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra, effective immediately.

Video game developer and publisher Blizzard Entertainment is a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard. Oneal joined Blizzard in January as executive vice-president of development, while Ybarra has been executive vice-president and general manager of platform and technology since 2019.

The letter went on: “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. 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.”

In a statement, Brack said: “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.”

Details of alleged wrongdoing at Blizzard were made public on 22 July after a lawsuit was filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

Brack was specifically named in the lawsuit as having failed to hold members of the studio’s staff responsible for alleged wrongdoing. It said: “Numerous complaints about unlawful harassment, discrimination, and retaliation were made to defendants’ human resources personnel and executives, including to Blizzard Entertainment’s president J Allen Brack. But, defendants failed to take effective remedial measure in response to these complaints.” However, the lawsuit painted a picture of a “pervasive frat boy culture” of discrimination and mistreatment, rather than limiting blame to any individual executive.

President and COO of Activision Blizzard Daniel Alegre said in a separate statement that Brack was “leaving the company to pursue new opportunities”.

The announcement comes in advance of the company’s quarterly earnings call, due later today (3 August). Forbes notes that Activision Blizzard’s social media pages have been almost completely silent since news of the lawsuit broke.

Blizzard Entertainment headquarters. Image: Defkey/Wikimedia Commons.

Jack Kennedy is a freelance journalist based in Dublin