Activision Publishing CEO Griffith steps down

Previously reported management reshuffle now official as executive segues into role as Activision Blizzard vice chairman; move happened four days before Infinity Ward employee lawsuit.

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Yesterday, a Securities and Exchange Commission filing revealed that Activision Publishing president and CEO Michael Griffith has resigned. The timing made the move appear to be related to yesterday's dramatic lawsuit by 38 current and former employees of Infinity Ward, the studio behind Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

The suit claims Activision withheld $75 million to $125 million of bonuses and royalties due to developers from an alleged $900 million in profits Activision made from the first-person shooter. It demands a further $75 million to $500 million in punitive damages, bringing the total damages to $150 million to $625 million.

Former Activision Publishing president and CEO and newly installed Activision Blizzard vice chairman Mike Griffith.
Former Activision Publishing president and CEO and newly installed Activision Blizzard vice chairman Mike Griffith.

However, Griffith's resignation actually occurred on April 23, four days before the Infinity Ward employee lawsuit. Moreover, it was first reported in the Los Angeles Times in March, when Activision Blizzard quietly restructured its entire organization.

The paper then revealed that Griffith was moving on to become vice chairman of Activision Blizzard's board and would remain an adviser to Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick--a move confirmed by yesterday's filing. According to the SEC document, Griffith will now collect a base salary of $250,000, receive 50,000 stock options, and be eligible for a 50 percent annual bonus prorated for every year he serves on the board.

Other changes revealed by the Times included the promotion of CFO Thomas Tippl to temporary CEO of Activision Publishing and COO of Activision Blizzard. He will oversee Blizzard Entertainment president Mike Morhaime, who will continue to run the World of Warcraft maker, and Philip Earl, the head of the newly formed Call of Duty business unit.

Activision's restructuring established two new business units for wholly owned properties like Guitar Hero and licensed properties like the Marvel Comics and Transformer titles. Those will be run by vice president of owned properties Maria Stipp and Activision Value veteran Dave Oxford, respectively.

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