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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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