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Blizzard Entertainment Grapples With Harassment, Discrimination Claims

Video game maker Blizzard Entertainment Inc., still the largest software company in Orange County by far, has been getting plenty of attention of late, not much of it positive.

J. Allen Brack recently left the Irvine-based company, which he had led as president, following a lawsuit filed by California officials charging its corporate parent with sexual harassment and discrimination.

 Many of the allegations focused on the Irvine unit, where workers staged a walkout on July 28.

Parent company Activision Blizzard Inc. (Nasdaq: ATVI) of Santa Monica acknowledged on Aug. 3 that it was facing “serious allegations regarding the company’s employment, compensation and workplace practices” and promised “swift action to ensure a safe and welcoming work environment for all employees.”

Company insiders Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra stepped in to run the company that is a perennial in the No. 1 slot among OC’s largest software makers. Its employee headcount dipped slightly to 2,750 at midyear from 2,800 last year.

Shares in Activision Blizzard had risen about 2% over the previous 12 months to $83.37 as of Aug. 17. They had topped $103 a share in February.

Blizzard Entertainment, developer of such mega-hits as Diablo and World of Warcraft, outshines other local video game companies by employee count. Others based here include Santa Ana’s Obsidian Entertainment, and Irvine startups Frost Giant Studios and Dreamhaven.

Employment Down

The rankings are based on the size of a company’s workforce. The list is calculated from numbers obtained and compiled by the Business Journal.

Overall employment in the OC software sector fell 3.6% to about 8,100 this year from 8,371 last year, most likely due to the lingering effects of COVID-19.

Computer behemoth IBM Corp. with an estimated 1,200 in its Costa Mesa office, stayed at No. 2 on the list while the local office of Florida-based Ultimate Software moved up one place to No. 3 with an estimated 440 employees.

Rounding out the top five were the local unit of Oracle Corp. and Irvine-based Alteryx at No. 4 and No. 5, respectively.

Medical billing and management software firm Kareo Inc. of Irvine added five people to 270, climbing two places to No. 6. Kareo said Aug. 17 it had acquired PatientlySpeaking, a provider of robotic process automation in medical billing.

Alteryx, Acorns

Alteryx Inc. (NYSE: AYX), a maker of data analytics software, is up 5.3% to about 1,600 employees companywide. The company has declined to provide OC figures, but the Business Journal estimates employees to remain at 350.

The Alteryx share price closed at $71.22 apiece on Aug. 17, less than half the value it reached in October, as some would-be investors sit on the sidelines in a wait-and-see mode.

“I would not characterize what we’re experiencing as a problem,” Alteryx Chief Financial Officer Kevin Rubin told the Business Journal on Aug. 5. “The business is going through a transformation.”

Irvine-based Acorns Grow Inc., whose web app rounds up spare change from customers and places the money in an investment account, dropped nearly 14% to 207 OC employees, but kept its spot at No. 9 (see story, page 1).

Mavenlink, a provider of software for streamlining companies’ workflows, fell one place to No. 15. Ray Grainger, the founder and chief executive of the Irvine-based company, nabbed a Business Journal Innovator of the Year Award in 2019.

Kofax Inc., which announced the acquisition of print management software provider Printix on Aug. 10 slid to No. 16, though the company’s local headcount gained nearly 5% to 151. Kofax software products speed up handling of documents and invoices.

Notables 

• Waterloo, Canada-based BlackBerry (NYSE: BB), which in 2019 purchased Cylance, a local provider of internet security using artificial intelligence, saw the biggest drop in employment on the list, down 37% to 189 employees in Irvine from 300 a year ago.

• NextGen Healthcare Inc. (Nasdaq: NXGN) cut OC employment by 12.5% to 265, the third largest decline on the list. The healthcare software provider relocated its headquarters from Irvine to Atlanta earlier this year but maintains a local office.

Vehicle tracking and management company CalAmp Corp. (Nasdaq: CAMP) rose one place to No. 21. In addition, CalAmp moves up to the No. 11 slot on the Business Journal’s list of top OC Telecom and Wireless companies. 

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Kevin Costelloe
Kevin Costelloe
Tech reporter at Orange County Business Journal
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