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Business of Esports TV: Leadership in Activision Blizzard

(Livestream 137)

In this segment, we discuss Tony Petitti stepping down as president of Sports and Entertainment for Activision Blizzard and the HR mess that followed.

The Business Of Esports brings you news, debates, and all the information you need to know about the gaming sector, the world’s fastest-growing market. With Paul “The Profit” Dawalibi leading the charge, and a variety of special guests, BoE TV is the only place to find insider information on the esports industry!

Check out the full livestream here:

Paul Dawalibi 47:57
Guys, I want to I want to do this. I want to move on. But I kind of want to do a new segment, because we sort of do it every week. But let’s let’s let’s make it official. And let’s put our tinfoil hats on. Okay.

William Collis 48:34
It’s not really a new segment. Let’s have a fancy animation for it.

Jeff Cohen 48:37
I thought for sure this segment is going to include Kerwin the Bulldog.

Paul Dawalibi 48:43
Here hold on is this is this is this better. Here tinfoil hats on? There we go. You need to use the soundboard Paul

Jeff Cohen 48:49
include Kerwin and any point

Jimmy Baratta 48:51
I’ll get you a photo of him in a tinfoil hat and we can do you like his spinning face shirts heck of it.

William Collis 48:57
We should call it tsp. That should be our segment like

Paul Dawalibi 49:02
but this is this is a story that I think at least I saw coming. But I would love the tinfoil hat theories on why this happened. Okay. And the story here is Tony patootie stepping down as president of sports and entertainment for Activision Blizzard. So this was Bobby’s big time hire from major league baseball. And, you know, 12 years grow growing Major League Baseball, and he was hired August 17 2020. And now he’s stepping down he was supposed to be heading up there media and eSports business basically. He was the president of sports and entertainment. So who who here has a theory on why you know what our we were like nine months into his stint at Activision Blizzard. This was a very high profile. Higher. Where did this fall apart? Anyone have a tinfoil hat theory here?

William Collis 50:08
Paul, you introduced this segment Can you do your tinfoil hat first and we’re all a bit intimidated by your you’re like so eager. You’re like Does anyone have a theory? Anyone?

Paul Dawalibi 50:21
I actually I don’t I’m really curious. I actually don’t I really am curious what I would have never hired him in the first place. So I don’t I’m struggle with the theory on this one. That’s that’s kind of the point here. Yeah, I don’t know.

Jeff Cohen 50:36
Theory. But he came in with all these great ideas. And he was going to transform Activision Blizzard eSports. And, you know, Activision is just a recalcitrant company. And they couldn’t, they couldn’t, in, you know, they couldn’t bring in his amazing new theories that were just too revolutionary, and would have rocked the boat too much. And so he, it just was like oil and water. And he was too revolutionary to fit in Activision.

Paul Dawalibi 51:07
It’s a theory, I like it, I like it. By the way, Christian says, you can send me your address, I’ll send you tinfoil hats, then you can turn it into an NF t Now we’re talking. William, you were gonna say something?

William Collis 51:21
I want Jimmy to go, Jimmy.

Jimmy Baratta 51:22
I appreciate it. Thank you. Um, you know, I don’t really know how things are done at this high of a level, you know, behind the scenes, I would imagine there’s a lot of discussion before any new initiative is launched. There’s a lot of data collected, and research to decide on whether or not that’s what they’re going to do. It seems like nine months perhaps is too short for anything that he that Tony Patel, you would have done to have come to fruition by now. So I do you actually, I know is a joke, but like the oil and water thing, it sounds more perhaps like it was a clash of personalities, or it’s just a bad, you know, bad behavioral fit, where, you know, he got the job, because maybe in a one on one environment or in a friendly environment with Bobby Kotick, there was something there, but then in the workplace environment, it didn’t come across as well.

Paul Dawalibi 52:11
Guys, I want to make this less about the person because I’m sure he’s very, obviously very accomplished and smart and a good guy. But you know, it’s mentioned in this article, and it’s sort of mentioned so quickly that you can gloss over it. But I think I’m like I’m I was deadly curious when I read this, what this actually means. But it says in the article that and this is from their official statement, Activision Blizzard, and Tony patootie, president of sports entertainment have parted ways. In connection with Tony’s departure, we may invest in a venture, which is unrelated to eSports, but cannot share details at this time.

Jeff Cohen 52:48
I did catch I remember reading that and actually being like,

Paul Dawalibi 52:51
what does that like, What? What are they invested in?

Jeff Cohen 52:56
I mean, maybe he’s starting a business, maybe Maybe it has something to do with

Paul Dawalibi 53:01
gaming related, right?

Jeff Cohen 53:05
I bet it’s media related. If I had to get I mean, obviously, we’re now wildly speculative, you know, before we that’s why

Paul Dawalibi 53:11
it’s the tinfoil hat.

Jeff Cohen 53:13
trick. Now, I’m now wildly speculating. But it’s fascinating. I mean, the way that’s written you don’t throw that in there unless they are obviously investing in some business that this guy is either starting, or part of because otherwise, Why the hell would you put that in there? Yeah. So obviously, that’s the case. Now the question is now we wildly speculate what that business is. I don’t know. Maybe it’s a new baseball video game. Right? There’s not that many baseball video games out there. Maybe Activision is investing in new studio that’s building baseball video games, but maybe 90 of business, maybe. Maybe it’s sports betting? I don’t know. It’s kind of the hot topic these days. It’s not eSports. Right. And he said, it says

Paul Dawalibi 53:55
it’s one related to eSports.

Jeff Cohen 53:58
So it probably is gaming. Because it’s, it’s Activision I was doing with gaming. But it’s not eSports. So I don’t it’s got to be a game or or a media property, but I would sort of be eSports it’s interesting. It definitely makes this less of like a cut and dry. Hey, we hired this guy didn’t work and more of like, maybe this guy on Steam and has some good idea. And now he’s starting a company and we’re gonna hear more about it.

William Collis 54:24
Not to like, encourage further tinfoil hat thing. But isn’t the replacement the chief revenue officer, am I right? Did I also read Brandon’s leg. That’s super interesting, though, that you put your revenue officer over your eSports division, like, what does that say about Activision Blizzard’s confidence in eSports moving forward, because he could read that as extremely positive. Actually, I would read it as extremely positive.

Paul Dawalibi 54:51
You read that as positive, maybe I would read that potentially you could read that as negative to write like, hey, this property’s really struggling. We need our chief revenue officer. To go in there and actually generate some revenue,

William Collis 55:02
I mean, whatever, but I

Jeff Cohen 55:04
think it’s not enough to like putting, you know, put in direct line with, like the CEO or the CFO, but like, or Bobby, but hey, like, you could have this guy who’s like, you know, Brandon snow a few run a couple of rungs down, like, he’ll be in charge of it. Like, it won’t be Daniel, or, you know, Dennis or anyone like, you know, we’ll put

Paul Dawalibi 55:26
let me just read these comments, guys. Ramsey says acquisition down the line, well, they’re investing in this thing is what they saying, which is also weird for a public company to just, I feel throw that in there. Right? Like, we may invest in a venture, but cannot share details at this time. It’s awfully vague for for, you know, a very large public company

William Collis 55:52
to put out a press release two, it’s like, it’s like important enough to be mentioned, right? They all made almost wants to read is like, he’s going away for a reason will tell you more. Like,

Jeff Cohen 56:05
it’s also he didn’t really need to put out a press release on this period. Like, you know, the guy he wasn’t like that senior that like they really need to put something out here.

Paul Dawalibi 56:15
Yoshi has an interesting theory, weird alternative form of golden parachute. So you know, we go we are like, we fired you, you have probably had some big contract, right? Instead of having to tell the market we paid you, you know, 25 million for nine months of work? I don’t know.

William Collis 56:36
Crazy, because then Couldn’t you a more ties it like as an investment on your like, isn’t that like a better for the company to? I don’t know,

Jeff Cohen 56:45
to the tinfoil theory? Really? I highly doubt they paid him 25 million you crazy?

Paul Dawalibi 56:50
I don’t know. My point is it’s not. That’s an interesting idea. But like, Chris says, Activision is way too in control of our eSports media. There was no press on this vs is higher. This is also true, right? It didn’t get nearly as much play. Is this is this the state like is this Activision being in control of our eSports media that they can sort of pump up a story if they want to, or make a story go away? If they really want to? I mean, they didn’t have to put out any press release for this Really? I don’t think right. It’s definitely no legal obligation to go put out a press release. I don’t know. Does anyone see this as like they were suppressing this news? I mean, Chris, yeah, this is definitely a situation that they suppress more, obviously, which was the Adderall situation that went away so fast. I agree. Like, for anyone who’s watching, who’s not familiar with what Chris is referring to, like, a bunch of Call of Duty pros, basically admitted that they all take Adderall to improve their performance, or took Adderall. And that that seemed to have been shut down pretty quickly. They made that go away quite effectively. But that could just be a good PR department also, right? Like, I don’t know if it was anything purposely nefarious. Look at how the huge story was shut down. I didn’t I don’t know if that’s the same as the Adderall. One, Chris. I don’t know that. Specifically. No other tinfoil hat theories here. Before we move on.

Jeff Cohen 58:30
What’s your theory? Paul? I don’t know if we ever got that.

Paul Dawalibi 58:37
I don’t I honestly didn’t have one. Like, I was kind of excited to hear what you guys thought. Again. I mean, I never believed that. He should have been hired in the first place. It always felt like a mismatch. I just think. I think the simplest theory is probably the one that goes on here. Like what has been the turnover with Activision Blizzard executives, and especially in and around eSports? Like, how many commissioners Have they gone through head of Esports? Like, we’re talking like, three, four or five of them by now. Right? At least have these sort of top hires that have

Jeff Cohen 59:16
that they made Joanna Joanna, the President, she’s in charge of all Call of Duty now, which is interesting. Remember, she got hired from the NFL to be the Commissioner of the Call of Duty league. Then they got rid of I forget his name from the Overwatch league. It was that night or maybe was the guy at night. I think it was actually but there was someone after they quit. And then there was a guy I forget his name, he left or got put to a different part of the company. And they put Joanna and john because I remember you guys covered it extensively on the podcast. They put her in charge of both leagues, which like at the time, the theory thought was, Well, that seems like a lot of responsibility for one person who’s just getting into the gaming space. You know, he’s not That familiar with this brand or this business? Turns out, she must have either done a really good job or is very good at playing the internal politics because she’s now in charge of the entire Call of Duty franchise.

Paul Dawalibi 1:00:12
To be to be to be fair, or someone who’s never been in gaming. The franchise leagues have not done well. So like there’s an absolute measure of performance there. That’s not good. But I think in general, the leadership on the esports side of Activision Blizzard has been confused. The messaging is confusing the strategies probably not clear. And my guess the guy like Tony went in, assuming he was going to be able to make changes or push things in a way that he wanted, and probably walked into a bigger mess than he thought might otherwise have been there. And just wanted no part of it would be my guess if I had to give my tinfoil hat theory. I just think there’s so much turnover there that the problem must be on the Activision Blizzard side. But don’t know, interesting to see how that pans out. I can’t wait to find out what they’re investing in, like, clearly they believe in him. So like, I’m really curious what this venture is that they’re investing in.

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