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Activision Exec Griffith Resigns
Activision Exec Griffith Resigns
April 28, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander

April 28, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander
More: Console/PC

As Activision currently fields two separate lawsuits from former employees of its its once-prized Infinity Ward studio, Activision Publishing CEO and president Mike Griffith is resigning his role.

Griffith tenders his resignation just two months ahead of the June 30 expiration of his employment contract with the company, SEC filings reveal. He will retain his board position as vice chairman on a 12-month renewable contract, for which he'll earn $250,000 a year, plus stock options and bonus eligibility.

According to the filing, under the terms of Griffith's agreement with the company, he can leave the company before this new contract expires, but can only collect a base salary if he does so. Activision did not specify a reason for his resignation or if it is tied to the escalating tension with Infinity Ward.

Highly-publicized troubles for Activision began with the firing of Infinity Ward studio heads Jason West and Vince Zampella, on the heels of Modern Warfare 2's billion-dollar success.

In the wake of West and Zampella's founding of EA-backed independent studio Respawn Entertainment, exits by key Infinity Ward personnel followed -- analysts have warned investors of the risk volatility at Infinity Ward posed to one of Activision's most powerful brands.

Most recently, Janco Partners analyst Mike Hickey said the Infinity Ward defections spell "meaningful uncertainty" for the future of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare brand -- even suggesting that the studio would be "essentially closed" after its next map pack release.

Amid a rapid uptick in departures from Infinity Ward, however -- 26 known exits in total as of yesterday -- an Activision rep confirmed that the remaining developers were being incentivized to stay with the promise of redistributed bonuses forfeited by West and Zampella.

But a new lawsuit revealed late yesterday by a group of current and former Infinity Ward employees alleges that Activision has been withholding owed royalties and bonus payments in an attempt to keep employees from leaving the studio.

The claims would appear to corroborate reports from Gamasutra sources indicating that employees were asked to sign duration or project commitments for the not-so-near future before they could be paid promised monies -- in this case, Modern Warfare 3, the schedule for which was apparently a bone of contention in the original dispute between Activision and West and Zampella.

Many departed Infinity Ward employees have emerged at West and Zampella's Respawn Entertainment in a series of highly-publicized relocations. The conflict between Activision and Infinity Ward hasn't escaped the notice of the mainstream business press, and investors appear to be punishing the company's stock over the past month as the drama unfolds.

Just over the last two weeks, as of press time today, Activision's stock has declined about a dollar from its six-month high of about $12.40 per share on April 12.

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Marco Devarez
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this is suspect... 2 months before contract expiration???

hes probably a named party in one of the lawsuits... (scapegoat?)

Carlo Delallana
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I depends on how the role of Publishing CEO is defined. He may not be the person responsible for overseeing/managing internal development studios within Activision. His role might be more aligned with marketing.

ken sato
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CEOs typically align to all internal units and are charged with maintaining oversite over all internal units and processes, ensuring both long term and short term reporting on instituted processes reported on each quarter.

In any case the legal documents of the class action suit are up on Joystiq.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Kevin Reese
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No doubt he should resign. Guy let the ultimate money-maker slip through his fingers by short-changing hard working folks.

Infinity Ward only exists in name now..

ken sato
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Not necessarily. CEO's are just as limited by their departments and what they report as to what departments they DON'T control and what DOESN'T get reported.

For example, you have a business unit that under performs, incorrectly assesses risk, etc. You do a 1st pass assessment get a multitude of issues in: reporting, performance, communication, etc.

So ask yourself some basic questions:

(1) What is the over all purpose of the unit?

(2) What is does it cost?

(3) Who and what is the business unit responsible for and to?

This becomes more difficult the more distributed the operations are in location, the number of departments and people involved, and over all inspection that needs to be done on day-to-day tasks.

If you review just the amount of events in-house that has occurred over the last year or so, including all the new and old faces, as well as turn over in (not just at IW, but in total) things look quite hectic and sporadic.

In any case, while responsibility is the keystone of executive management...there can be a lot of resistance or too little of it that can produce increased risk and lack of attention. Responsibility and fault are two separate things. It's possible to do everything right and still fail, so the real goal seems to be...not to fail. That is, of course, everyone can agree to what failure is...

Adam Piotuch
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Yep, definitely saw this coming. Reminds me of Midways epic fail somehow....only time will present the similarities. "Take the money and run."

gus one
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It's actually a superb buying opportunity. The stock has dropped $2bn from the recent high on MW fears and that compares to MW2 sales of just $1bn. Complete overeaction from people in the market who don't understand the company. I speak to a number on asset managers and they really have no clue about the games industry. I admit whilst it's going to be a little choppy for a while the reality is the current fall is overdone. I'd be wading in for more at any price below $11 but I am not allowed. Dam you Eliot Spitzer and your call girls haha.

Tim Braslavsky
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seems to me as though this is a move by activision in order to get the public back on their side. As in "look this was all his fault we are better now buy our games" well the simple version anyway. With respawn forming in ea turf and IW falling apart they needed to do something to try to get people on their side. Whether their policies will change is to be seen.

Adam Moore
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Activision is having some serious problems right now. It appears from the outside that they're willing to sacrifice their reputation with questionable, if not downright unethical business practices to try and fix their financial troubles. This is a terrible choice. Money flows - it comes and it goes... but reputation sticks. I speculate that Griffith understands this and has chosen to put his reputation before his wallet.