Activision Blizzard boss Bobby Kotick's $155m pay package approved by shareholders

Just.

Activision Blizzard shareholders have voted to approve boss Bobby Kotick's $155m pay packet after a controversial delay.

GamesIndustry.biz reports the say-on-pay vote, which had been delayed to this week in what was seen by some as an effort by Activision Blizzard to avoid an embarrassing slapdown, won approval from 54 percent of shareholders - down from the 56.8 percent approval seen last year, which itself was down from the 58 percent approval of 2019.

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The decision comes following significant pressure from CtW, an investment company that "holds directors accountable for irresponsible and unethical corporate behaviour and excessive executive pay".

"Activision Blizzard employees face job insecurity following layoffs of 800 employees in 2019, and typically earn less than one third of one percent of the CEO's earnings, with some employees, such as junior developers, making less than $40,000 a year while living in high-cost areas such as southern California," CtW said in a filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission ahead of the original date of the vote on 11th June.

Activision Blizzard adjourned its annual shareholder meeting until Monday to address what it called "misleading" information about Kotick's pay.

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Activision Blizzard boss Bobby Kotick.

The say-on-pay vote was advisory, which means that even if Activision Blizzard had lost Kotick would still have collected his $155m - although doing so without shareholder approval would have been a bad look.

"With only 54 percent of votes cast in favour, the proposal nearly failed to receive majority support - it appears Activision did just enough arm-twisting for the measure to pass," Michael Varner, director of executive pay research at CtW, told the Financial Times.

"The additional time shareholders requested allowed them to thoroughly review the facts about Activision Blizzard's rigorous pay-for-performance compensation practices as well as changes the Board made to our executive compensation based on extensive feedback from shareholders," Activision Blizzard said in a statement.

Activision Blizzard cut Kotick's 2021 salary by 50 percent to $875,000, and reduced his target annual bonus by 50 percent, which is a potential reduction of $1.75m for each of the 2021 and 2022 fiscal years.

However, under the new agreement, Kotick can still earn an annual bonus up to 200 percent of his base salary, assuming he meets certain targets. That's a potential $1.75m on top of the $875,000 a year.

According to the FT, most of Kotick's $155m package for 2020 was in awards tied to a 2016 goal of doubling the company's market capitalisation, and its shares soared last year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Activision Blizzard board has said that under Kotick, Activision Blizzard's market capitalisation has increased from less than $10m to over $70bn, with an 8100 percent increase in shareholder return between 2000 and 2020.

The company recently crowed that cash cow Call of Duty: Warzone has over 100 million players, and the Call of Duty series has sold over 400m copies. Activision Blizzard's better-than-expected 2020 revenue was $8.09bn, up from $6.49bn for 2019.

But in March, Activision Blizzard warned staff of impending layoffs across its offices in Europe.

In 2019, Activision Blizzard announced it was laying off 800 people despite earning record financial results.

In March, Activision Blizzard said it expects to hire 3000 people in 2021, mostly in production and development.

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Wesley Yin-Poole

Wesley Yin-Poole

Editor  |  wyp100

Wesley is Eurogamer's editor. He likes news, interviews, and more news. He also likes Street Fighter more than anyone can get him to shut up about it.

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