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Activision CEO Bobby Kotick stands to walk away with a massive payday if he leaves the company

A parachute so golden that it could blind his detractors.

Activision CEO Bobby Kotick stands to walk away with a massive payday if he leaves the company
Robert “Bobby” Kotick. [Source Images: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty; Westend61/Getty]

For months, a contingent of Activision Blizzard employees has loudly cried for the removal of CEO Bobby Kotick, following a series of claims about workplace misconduct at the company behind Call of Duty and Candy Crush. On Tuesday, those critics seemingly got what they wanted, but hardly in the way they had hoped.

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Kotick is expected to leave Activision once the $68.7 billion acquisition by Microsoft is completed in 2023, according to the Wall Street Journal.

But he could leave with a parachute so golden that it could blind his detractors.

Kotick owns approximately 4.09 million shares of Activision, according to FactSet. That’s the most of any individual. That alone will net him over $388 million—in cash. That’s on top of the $155 million he earned in 2020, which made him the country’s second-highest paid CEO.

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It’s also on top of stock options he was awarded in recent years as part of his compensation package. In 2017, he was given the opportunity to purchase 190,712 shares, which became fully vested at the end of last year. In 2018, he was awarded an option to purchase 925,057 shares, which vest in full at the end of this year. Those combined options will then be worth another $106 million, based on Microsoft’s purchase price.

He also has a third option to purchase 1,086,109 shares, awarded in 2019, which likely won’t be fully vested by the time the deal is concluded, so it’s unclear how much he’ll net from that.

Starting March 16 of this year, Activision also is required to reimburse Kotick for up to $80,000 per year of life insurance premiums until the 10th anniversary of his employment agreement on October 1, 2026.

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Kotick’s exit seems to have been negotiated, but there is a question of whether that departure will trigger the termination clause in his contract. According to that, Kotick will receive a windfall of nearly $293 million for “termination by Activision Blizzard without cause or termination by employee for good reason following a change of control.”

So there are a lot of X factors at play, making it impossible to say just how much Kotick will walk away with. Regardless of the amount, it’s a remarkable return on the $400,000 he spent to purchase 25% of a then-bankrupt Activision some 31 years ago.

Fast Company reached out to Activision Blizzard for comment and will update this post if we hear back.

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Activision Blizzard is still facing government investigations and multiple lawsuits tied to its own allegedly toxic work culture. In November, the Journal reported that memos, emails, and more showed Kotick was aware of allegations in many parts of the company, including one alleged rape of a former female employee at Sledgehammer Games by her male supervisor, but withheld it from Activision’s board of directors.

The fallout was swift: A petition demanding Kotick’s immediate resignation was circulated internally, reportedly gathering 1,850 employee signatures. Some workers also walked off the job, and talk of unionization grew.

Now Kotick’s days seem to be numbered. Admittedly, it’s a pretty big number, but normally that would still be a reason for critics to celebrate. But this time, the anti-Kotick contingent will hardly be able to claim any sort of victory.

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About the author

Chris Morris is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience. Learn more at chrismorrisjournalist.com.

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