Today, Activision Blizzard announced the promotion of Blizzard chief commercial officer and the chief operating officer Armin Zerza to CFO of the whole company. What it did not announce to the public is that it has also hired a new chief administrative officer: former Donald Trump administration member Brian Bulatao.
Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick informed employees of the hiring in an email, which Kotaku has viewed. In it, Kotick emphasized Bulatao’s past as a military veteran and also referenced his most recent job, Under Secretary of State for Management at the U.S. Department of State, where he worked directly under Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, his longtime friend, business partner, and former West Point classmate and one of Trump’s most ardent allies. Prior to being nominated by Trump in 2018 and confirmed by the Senate in 2019, Bulatao was chief operating officer of the CIA. Kotick made note of the fact that Bulatao was in charge of “leading the State Department’s talent, diversity, and inclusion efforts,” an effort Trump put on hold through an executive order last September.
“Brian is a rare talent, and the perfect fit for Activision Blizzard; his unparalleled combination of business, military, and government experience makes him ideally suited to accelerate our organizational transformation and deliver on great opportunities for future growth,” Kotick wrote in the email to employees.
At Activision Blizzard, Bulatao will oversee the Call of Duty Endowment, which is a veteran-focused non-profit founded by Kotick, as well as “key administrative functions including the Corporate Social Responsibility activities across Activision Blizzard, People, IT, Workplace Information, and Physical Security.” He will have “management responsibility” in a few other areas across the company.
Update: 3/30/21, 12:00 p.m. ET: In a statement emailed to Kotaku, an Activision spokesperson added that “Brian’s unparalleled success in the business world and distinguished career as an Infantry Captain in the US Army make him an excellent addition to our leadership team,” and that when it comes to veterans, “we recognize and appreciate the expertise and rigor they bring to everything they do.”
Last year, Bulatao came under public scrutiny as part of the House Democrats’ probe into Trump’s firing of the State Department’s independent watchdog, Inspector General Steve Linick. Linick, who’d been conducting an investigation into possible misuse of government resources by Pompeo before conspicuously getting fired, testified in June 2020 that Bulatao “tried to bully” him on multiple occasions, including during an investigation into the Trump administration’s 2019 sale of $8 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia. Linick also said that despite his job under Pompeo, Bulatao seemed to be “unfamiliar with the role of inspectors general.” Linick contended that he was fired for “no valid reason,” which Bulatao refuted in his own testimony in September 2020, asserting instead that Trump “lost confidence” in him for a variety of reasons.
Last year, citing sources that previously worked within the State Department, Business Insider published a report calling Bulatao “Mike Pompeo’s attack dog” and accusing him of overseeing extravagant spending on non-foreign policy related things like campaign events and donor dinners as well as “an unprecedented ousting of career ambassadors” and other personnel issues. The report also pointed out that the new acting Inspector General, Stephen Akard, had not left his previous post as Director of Foreign Missions and would thus report directly to Bulatao despite the conflict of interest that would benefit Pompeo, Bulatao’s close friend and boss. This drew criticism from Democratic politicians at the time. Akard resigned months later.
Activision Blizzard’s hiring of Bulatao follows an early March announcement that the company had brought on Frances F. Townsend, a former George W. Bush-era counterterrorism appointee and torture apologist, as its new head of compliance. Bulatao, who Kotick commended in his email for his newfound commitment to “epic entertainment,” will at least find himself in familiar company.