- Bobby Kotick, CEO of video game publisher Activision Blizzard, will not stand for re-election to Coca-Cola's board, which he joined in 2012.
- Microsoft announced a plan to buy Activision for $68.7 billion in January.
- Kotick said in a statement Friday that he will focus his "full attention on Activision Blizzard at this pivotal time as we prepare for our merger with Microsoft.”
Kotick is stepping down as the company works to complete the sale to Microsoft for $68.7 billion, the largest U.S. technology transaction in history. The deal was announced in January, and Microsoft expects it to close in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2023.
"I have decided not to stand for re-election to The Coca-Cola Company board in order to focus my full attention on Activision Blizzard at this pivotal time as we prepare for our merger with Microsoft," Kotick, who served as a company director for 10 years, said in a statement.
Kotick, 58, has emerged as a controversial figure in recent months. The Wall Street Journal reported in November that women have accused Kotick of misconduct, alleging he didn't share everything he knew about mistreatment inside Activision with the company's board. The family of an employee who committed suicide filed suit on Thursday against Activision in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging wrongful death.
Kotick's involvement in politics also has drawn scrutiny. Through LLCs , he funded Republican campaigns in 2020 as well as GOP causes, CNBC reported. The Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group which tracks political spending, says LLCs can be "created primarily to conceal the true source of money flowing to super PACs that spend millions of dollars to influence elections." A Kotick spokesman told CNBC that one of the two companies manages some of the executive's investments and that he has given to both Democrats and Republicans over the years.
Coke has a financial relationship with Activision, but the beverage giant's board determined the relationship wasn't material, in part because sponsorship agreements represented less than 1% of Activision's gross revenue, according to an SEC filing.
Kotick received $340,003 in total compensation for his board work from Coca-Cola in 2020, the filing said.
SOC Investment Group, a Washington-based nonprofit organization that works with union-backed pension funds on shareholder activism campaigns, had urged Coca-Cola director Maria Elena Lagomasino to persuade her fellow board members not to nominate Kotick for re-election before Microsoft announced its bid for Activision Blizzard.
Kotick isn't suitable to sit on Coca-Cola's board, because he learned of abuse by Activision Blizzard executive but tried to retain them or reduce their disciplinary action, among other alleged issues, Dieter Waizenegger, SOC's executive director, told Lagomasino in a December letter.
"His actions and statement are clearly disqualifying, and if he is renominated we will have no choice but to oppose his re-election as well as that of other Coca-Cola directors," Waizenegger wrote.
Clarification: This story was updated to reflect that Kotick's donations to organizations supporting Republican Senate candidates were made through limited liability corporations to which his name was not attached, not secret companies.