While many of us ended 2018 in a positive mood with drinks and fireworks, Activision Blizzard Inc Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Spencer Neumann, was given notice of termination ‘for cause unrelated to the Company’s financial reporting or disclosure controls and procedures’. Neumann has been placed on a paid leave of absence to give him the opportunity to prepare to contest this decision. In the meantime, Activision Blizzard’s Chief Corporate Officer (CCO), Dennis Durkin will assume Neumann’s responsibilities. Durkin will replace Neumann permanently if Neumann does not contest his termination. To read Activision Blizzard Inc’s full statement on this matter, please click here.
Besides the brief statement linked above, Activision Blizzard have not elaborated on what these causes unrelated to company finances might be. This has led to speculation, with a number of sources such as CNBC stating that media services provider, Netflix have poached Neumann to act as their CFO. Neumann is allegedly set to start this new role in early 2019 so Activision Blizzard supposedly opted to fire him before he resigned. At the time of this article’s publication, none of the involved parties have addressed these rumours, and Neumann is still listed as Activision Blizzard’s CFO.
According to Activision Blizzard, Durkin already served as the company’s CFO for five years from 2012 to May 2017. At this time, Durkin transitioned to being the company’s CCO while Neumann was hired as CFO. Given Durkin’s familiarity with the role of CFO for Activision Blizzard, he seems to be a sound choice to replace Neumann. However, given that Durkin already held this role and moved out of it, it can be speculated that returning to this role is not his ideal career move. It is not unreasonable to assume that if Durkin was fulfilled in his role as CFO, he would not have left it in the first place. Although this is simply more speculation. Just as in this instance, there may have been inner company workings that required him to leave the role of CFO just as there are inner working which may return him to it.
Furthermore, the idea of Activision Blizzard firing Nuemann before he quits sounds petty. If Nuemann is indeed leaving for Netflix, the more pragmatic approach would be for him who announce his resignation and last working day and for Activision Blizzard to commence a search for a suitable replacement. Firing Neumann but placing him on unpaid leave to consider his next move may work out to be more costly than letting him resign. But again, this is more speculation.