Meta's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg (pictured right), reportedly pressured MailOnline, the digital version of UK tabloid Daily Mail , to drop a potential article about her then-boyfriend Bobby Kotick (pictured left), according to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) . Kotick is the CEO of Activision Blizzard, which has been in the spotlight over the past few months as a result of allegations concerning gender-based discrimination, inequality, and sexual harassment.
Facebook has since kicked off a review on whether Sandberg has violated internal rules and Meta's spokesperson told WSJ that Sandberg "never threatened the MailOnline's business relationship with Facebook" so as to influence an editorial decision. At the same time, The Guardian also quoted Meta's spokesperson saying that WSJ 's story "attempts to make connections that don't exist".
WSJ said that Sandberg persuaded MailOnline to shelve a story in 2016 and 2019 about Kotick's former girlfriend obtaining a temporary restraining order against him. Kotick allegedly said that Sandberg, who he dated for three years, told MailOnline in 2016 that the article could damage the publisher's business relationship with Facebook if it was published, WSJ said. The MailOnline operates separately from its print edition the Daily Mail .
Meanwhile, Kotick and Sandberg also sought PR advice from employees at each other's companies as well as outside advisers to urge MailOnline not to publish an article about the restraining order. There were reportedly concerns that the story would "reflect negatively" on Sandberg's reputation as an advocate for women. Sandberg has been championing women in the workplace through a non-profit organisation named LeanIn.Org and through her book Lean In.
According to WSJ , Kotick also denied the allegations stating that the media outlet's reporting regarding the matter was inaccurate and that the story was not published because it was untrue. Meanwhile, Kotick's former girlfriend who obtained the restraining order against him also said that many of her allegations were "either exaggerated or untrue", WSJ reported.
Kotick reportedly turned up at his former girlfriend's house uninvited after she ended their relationship due to "his bullying and controlling nature". According to the WSJ , she was reportedly given an emergency protective order by the police and a subsequent temporary restraining order. MARKETING-INTERACTIVE has reached out to Meta and Activision Blizzard for comment.
Separately, Kotick came under fire last yea r for mishandling harassment complaints. He also said in 2021 that he will consider leaving the company if he isn't able to quickly fix the culture problems in the company. Activision reportedly collected approximately 700 reports of employee concern regarding misconduct and other issues since last July. The company was also said to have "fired or pushed out" more than 36 employees and disciplined approximately 40 others since then.
Earlier this year, the video game company was snapped up by Microsoft for US$68.7 billion to accelerate its gaming business across mobile, PC, console, and cloud. The tech giant said previously that this acquisition will make it the world's third-largest gaming company by revenue, behind Tencent and Sony.
Just last week, the company appointed Kristen Hines as its new chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer to implement programmes and policies that foster a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace environment. Hines will also partner across all gaming teams to ensure diverse and inclusive perspectives are included in game design, including storylines, character development, gameplay and community interaction.
The company also elected two women to its board of directors yesterday: Lulu Cheng Meservey and Kerry Carr. Meservery is the VP of communications at Substack, an online platform for independent publishers of newsletters and podcasts. Carr is the SVP global performance management, revenue growth management and shared services at Bacardi.
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