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Activision Blizzard sues Netflix for poaching CFO Spencer Neumann

Activision Blizzard booth at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles in 2013.
An Activision Blizzard Booth at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles in 2013.
(Jae C. Hong / AP)

Netflix continues to face legal challenges as it lures high-level executives from rival entertainment companies.

On Friday, Santa Monica-based Activision Blizzard sued Netflix over its recruitment of chief financial officer Spencer Neumann.

Neumann left Activision Blizzard at the end of December 2018, breaking his agreement to be employed at the company until at least April 30, 2020, according to a lawsuit filed by Activision in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

“Netflix’s unlawful conduct is not trailblazing or innovative — it is just reflective of Netflix’s contempt for the law of the State of California,” Activision said in its lawsuit.

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Netflix declined to comment.

Activision’s legal action follows other companies like Fox and Viacom that have filed lawsuits against Netflix for poaching their executives who had fixed-term contracts.

A judge last year ordered Netflix to stop poaching executives under fixed-term agreements from Fox. The Los Gatos, Calif.-based streaming giant appealed that decision in September.

Activision is requesting in its lawsuit that an injunction is placed on Netflix barring the company from recruiting Activision employees who are on fixed-term agreements and that Netflix pay damages.

When Neumann left, Activision said it paid his successor millions more in compensation when it had to quickly replace its CFO and paid millions of dollars in additional compensation to other executives to encourage them to stay at the company.

“Netflix’s unlawful behavior with regards to Neumann is no anomaly,” Activision Blizzard said in its lawsuit. “To the contrary, Netflix has a demonstrated pattern of caring only about attracting and employing whoever Netflix wants, regardless of whether it violates the law along the way.”

Neumann became Netflix’s CFO in January 2019. Prior to Neumann joining Netflix, the company’s previous CFO, David Wells, “demurred” when he was offered a chance to move to L.A., said Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings in an earnings call in October.

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“He had done so well as a generalist and tech CFO,” Hastings said of Wells. “We felt super fortunate to recruit Spence Neumann, who’s been like the dream CFO for Netflix.”


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