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Sheryl Sandberg pressured Daily Mail to spike stories about Bobby Kotick: report

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Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook parent Meta’s second-highest ranked executive, twice pressured the Daily Mail to kill potentially damaging stories about her then-boyfriend, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick, according to a report Thursday.

The bombshell report alleges Sandberg contacted the British tabloid in 2016 and 2019.

On both occasions, the Daily Mail was working on a story which would have revealed that one of Kotick’s ex-girlfriends had obtained a temporary restraining order against him in 2014.

Sandberg and Kotick reportedly worked with a team that included active employees at Facebook and Activision as well as paid outside advisers to develop a plan on how to get the Mail to table the stories.

Sandberg and her team were said to be concerned that an unflattering report on Kotick would be harmful to her reputation as an advocate for women – which includes her work with the nonprofit advocacy organization Lean In.

Sources told the Wall Street Journal that Sandberg was first involved in efforts to scuttle the story in 2016, when she and Kotick had first started dating, as well as in 2019, closer to their breakup.

Sheryl Sandberg
Sandberg is Facebook parent Meta’s second-highest executive.
Getty Images for Vanity Fair

Facebook officials are actively probing whether Sandberg’s behavior constituted a violation of company rules.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the Daily Mail’s digital arm was probing court filing related to the claims against Kotick. The ex-girlfriend obtained a temporary restraining order after the Activision executive allegedly confronted her at her home.

In both 2016 and 2019, Sandberg purportedly told the Daily Mail that Kotick’s accuser had retracted her claims. The outlet never published a story on the matter.

A Daily Mail representative did not immediately return a request for comment on the report.

Court records revealed the temporary restraining order against Kotick was removed shortly after it was implemented. Sources told the Wall Street Journal that Kotick’s accuser had told others that some of her claims were exaggerated or false. Additionally, the Daily Mail is purportedly aware that some of the claims were false.

Sheryl Sandberg
Sandberg and her associates reportedly feared potential damage to her reputation as an advocate for women.
Getty Images

Kotick’s former girlfriend slammed the Wall Street Journal’s report in a statement to The Post through her representative.

“I told the Wall Street Journal that what I said 8 years ago about Bobby was false.  It is still false,” the woman said. “In fact, in 2014, I signed a sworn statement making clear that what I had said was untrue. Nonetheless, the Journal decided to exploit me for an article it wanted to publish about Bobby.”

Sheryl Sandberg
Facebook is probing whether Sandberg violated its policies.
Getty Images for Step Up

According to the Journal, Kotick told associates that Sandberg warned the Daily Mail that any article they published regarding the situation could hurt the outlet’s relationship with Facebook – whose platform is a considerable source of traffic and revenue for countless media outlets.

Kotick denied that claim in a statement to the Journal, telling the outlet he “never said anything like that.”

When reached for comment, a Meta spokesperson said Sandberg “never threatened the MailOnline’s business relationship with Facebook in order to influence an editorial decision.”

“This story attempts to make connections that don’t exist,” the spokesperson added.

Bobby Kotick
The Daily Mail stories purportedly would have revealed that one of Kotick’s ex-girlfriends obtained a restraining order against him in 2014.
Getty Images

The Journal noted that there were “conflicting accounts” of what Sandberg said during her outreach – including whether she mentioned Facebook or her role at the company.

But some Facebook executives are said to be concerned that any involvement from Sandberg – even a phone call – could be perceived as a threat because of her position at the company.

Activision’s board of directors said in a lengthy statement that it has “been aware of the circumstances reported involving an incident in 2014” and noted Kotick “has ben fully transparent with the board.”

Daily Mail homepage
The Daily Mail never published the article on the allegations against Kotick.
Shutterstock / chrisdorney

“The Board, through its counsel Skadden Arps, has done a thorough examination of the facts and circumstances of the events, satisfied itself that there was no merit to the allegations, and notes that they concern a personal relationship that has nothing to do with the business of the Company,” the Activision directors said in a statement.

“The Board continues to have full confidence in Mr. Kotick’s leadership and his ability to run the Company,” the statement added.

Microsoft bought Activision-Blizzard earlier this year in a deal valued at nearly $69 billion. The deal followed months of turmoil at Activision — including intense scrutiny over Kotick’s handling of allegations of widespread workplace misconduct.

Kotick’s future role at Activision after the deal closes is unclear.

Ariel Zilber contributed reporting.



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