A merger with Blizzard, the studio behind World of Warcraft and once part of French conglomerate Vivendi, came in 2008, catapulting the company into the big leagues, alongside the likes of Electronic Arts. 

Since then Kotick has controlled about 2pc of the shares – worth $375m under the Microsoft deal.

‘Sexist’ culture claims

Yet his standing in the games industry has been damaged by his perceived handling of a series of scandals that have outraged colleagues.

His “exclusively male and white” leadership team at Activision Blizzard presided over a sexist, “frat boy” culture in which women were regularly harassed and discriminated against, according to a lawsuit brought by the government of California.

Male staff regularly drank in the office, came to work hungover, bantered about sexual encounters, talked openly about women’s bodies and even joked about rape, the lawsuit alleges.

Meanwhile, female staff were constantly forced to fend off unwanted advances and groping by male colleagues – including “high-ranking executives”, according to the lawsuit.

One woman killed herself on a business trip with a supervisor who had brought sex toys with him after explicit photos of her were circulated among her male colleagues.

Activision’s culture triggered a string of complaints. However, women who spoke up were later overlooked for promotion, made redundant, unwillingly transferred to another part of the business or deprived of work on projects, according to the lawsuit. 

More generally, women were also paid less, given fewer stock options and hired based on their looks. “Faced with such adverse terms and conditions of employment, many women have been forced to leave the company,” the lawsuit adds.

Activision has insisted there is “no place in our company for sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind” and that it took action “in all cases related to misconduct”.

“The [lawsuit] includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past,” the firm said last year.

Kotick himself is said to have known for years about sexual harassment at Activision and in one instance even intervened to prevent the firing of an implicated staff member, the Wall Street Journal has reported.

Separately, a female employee at Sledgehammer Games, another subsidiary, said she was raped by her male supervisor twice, in 2016 and 2017, in a complaint to the human resources department.

After being unsatisfied with the response, she hired a lawyer and Activision settled with her out of court. Kotick did not tell the company’s board about the incident, according to the Journal.

It was also claimed that Kotick once threatened to have his assistant killed in a menacing voicemail message. He “quickly apologised” for the “obviously hyperbolic” tirade in 2006, the company said, and also settled out of court with her.

Activision claimed the Wall Street Journal report was “misleading” and said the company had made improvements to internal policies, “at Mr Kotick’s direction”, for handling inappropriate conduct. 

Kotick has previously hired PR consultants including Steve Rubenstein, publicist to America’s financial elite, to help manage his image.

Kotick has also shown ruthless zeal when defending himself in court. In a court battle that was splashed across newspapers in New York, he was accused of trying to outspend his step-mother “into oblivion” through protracted legal warfare.

Natalia Shvachko, a model previously named Miss Ukraine in 1996, claimed Kotick had sought to deny her control of a $2m apartment she shared with his father, whom she married before his death in 2005.

Legal papers filed by Shvachko’s lawyers in 2017 claimed Kotick had become “obsessed with defeating his step-mother’s right to any assets from her husband’s estate”, while he claimed her lawsuit was an attempt to “rehash personal grudges”.

A big exit

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