What Did Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot Know About Allegations? Here's His Unsatisfying Answer
The recent reports of a toxic work environment hung like a cloud over Ubisoft's Q1 earnings call, and executives' answers were often evasive.
Recent allegations of a toxic workplace environment at Ubisoft have dominated headlines, so the company's corporate earnings call was sure to have the stories looming over the proceedings. And while CEO Yves Guillemot and other executives addressed the allegations, those answers left a lot to be desired.
Before the call began, Ubisoft said in its earnings statement that it would be proactively tying management bonuses to creating "a positive and inclusive workplace environment." When executives were asked direct questions during the Q&A period, though, the answers were less satisfying. The longest answer came from CEO Yves Guillemot, in response to a pointed question about his own responsibility and awareness of the problem. The questioner suggested he didn't know, he did know and did nothing, or he had been alerted but didn't act fast enough--none of them positive possibilities.
"Each time we have been made aware of misconduct, we made actually tough decisions and made sure that those decisions had a clear and positive impact, so that's very important," Guillemot said. "It has now become clear that certain individuals betrayed the trust I placed in them and didn't live up to Ubisoft's shared values. So I have never compromised on my core values and ethics, and never will. I will continue to run and transform Ubisoft to face today's and tomorrow's challenges."
CFO Frederick Duguet also said, in response to a separate question, "We take the allegations seriously and I think it was important that we acted fast."
In more practical terms, Guillemot was asked about the impact of recent management shifts, after several senior positions have been left suddenly vacant due to the spate of allegations. Guillemot reiterated the company's previous statements that he will be taking a more hands-on approach to fill the gap.
"We have a deep bench of senior, talented creative people ... a lot of creative minds, so I'm now taking directly the role of CMO and I'm really taking care of all those games that are on the way," he said. "I was already following those games carefully and I have strong teams to follow the games that are created. We're going to take advantage of the evolution of the company to make sure more communication and investment from all local teams into the production of the games."
Later, another question followed up by asking explicitly for names of employees who are taking over these senior VP roles. Guillemot said that the company has started to increase the number of VPs through a separate initiative, which has yielded positive results, but he declined to give specifics on which teams or particular employees have been promoted to support him in his new role.
"What we started at the beginning of the year was to increase the number of VPs in the organization and we have done that on two of the teams," he said. "We will continue to recruit from our studios--and from the outside but mostly our studios--people who have been working on different games. We will be able to recruit from our teams other people who can really help to continue to follow and also to inspire some of the teams that are developing future games."
Allegations leveled at Ubisoft have run the gamut, but overall they portray the studio as a misogynistic workplace--or a "frat-house culture" as described by some employees. The company is currently reorganizing the studio's editorial board and has added two new positions: Head of Workplace Culture and Head of Diversity and Inclusion. Executives who have stepped down amid the allegations include Assassin's Creed Valhalla director Ashraf Ismail, Serge Hascoet, Yannis Mallat, Cecile Cornet, and several other executives. Maxime Beland, who returned to the company as a member of the executive editorial team to guide project decisions, also left amid assault allegations.
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