Ubisoft Restructuring Editorial Department to Combat "Toxic Behavior"

ERIC PIERMONT/AFP via Getty Images
Yves Guillemot

In an internal letter written by CEO Yves Guillemot, the French-owned company declared "change starts today" and outlined practices to be implemented immediately.

Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot on Thursday published in a blog post an internal letter he wrote to staff members about the recent accusations of harassment and discrimination that targeted certain individuals at the company in recent weeks. 

The letter, titled "Change Starts Today," declared "The situations that some of you have experienced or witnessed are absolutely not acceptable. No one should ever feel harassed or disrespected at work, and the types of inappropriate behavior we have recently learned about cannot and will not be tolerated."

Guillemot wrote that he is restructuring the editorial department to ensure that "profound" change is introduced and implemented quickly in all levels of the company.

Last week, the French-owned company — known for the Assassin's Creed and Tom Clancy franchises — had its creative director Ashraf Ismail take leave from his position after a woman online accused him of marital infidelity. Additionally, a former employee of Ubisoft posted a Twitter thread accusing a male employee in the audio department of harassment. 

Ubisoft responded at the time by stating, "We have started by launching investigations into the allegations with the support of specialized external consultants. Based on the outcomes, we are fully committed to taking any and all appropriate disciplinary action. As these investigations are ongoing, we can't comment further. We are also auditing our existing policies, processes, and systems to understand where these have broken down, and to ensure we can better prevent, detect, and punish inappropriate behavior."

Accusations against Ubisoft executives Tommy Francois and Maxime Béland also surfaced on social media. Pending investigations into their behavior, Bloomberg reported that the two men have been placed on leave by the company.

A Ubisoft spokesperson said in a statement to THR on Monday, “Maxime Béland, Vice President Editorial, has resigned from his role at Ubisoft, effective immediately. Despite his resignation, we continue to investigate the allegations made against him. Additionally, effective as of yesterday, Tommy François, Vice President Editorial & Creative Services, has been placed on disciplinary leave pending the outcome of an investigation. One other individual in our Toronto studio has been terminated for engaging in behaviors that do not align with what is expected of Ubisoft employees. Other investigations are ongoing and will be conducted rigorously."

The statement continued, "Ubisoft will not tolerate workplace misconduct and will continue taking disciplinary actions against anyone who engages in harassment, discrimination and other behaviors that infringe on our Code of Fair Conduct."

In Guillemot's letter, he detailed a plan to combat these situations. "Specifically, I have decided to revise the composition of the editorial department, transform our human resources process, and improve the accountability of all managers on these subjects." He clarified that he's not looking for a quick fix, but rather a a "structural shift at Ubisoft that aligns with our values — values that do not tolerate toxic behaviors and where everyone feels safe to speak out."

Among the practices he outlined the appointment of Lidwine Sauer — previously a projects director in the strategic innovation lab — to head of workplace culture. In the new position, Sauer will examine the company's culture and suggest changes to benefit all employees. Additionally, a new position has been created: head of diversity and inclusion. "I am committed to improving diversity across the organization, including in all of our management teams," wrote Guillemot.

Independent third parties will continue pursuing ongoing investigations into allegations, which, once concluded, will result in "appropriate actions" being taken. The company has set up a confidential alert platform enabling employees to safely report harassment, discrimination and other inappropriate behaviors in an online portal.

Starting Monday, Ubisoft will hold listening sessions to share experiences, concerns and suggestions of improvement. Additionally, a global employee survey will be introduced in the coming weeks for employees to participate in anonymously and give feedback; and there will be a comprehensive review of policies and procedures.

"These concrete actions are just the beginning of profound changes at all levels," Guillemot wrote toward the end of his letter. "I am convinced that, all together, we will build a better Ubisoft for the benefit of all."

Ubisoft is not the only company to have made negative headlines in recent weeks. Many users of the Amazon-owned live-streaming platform Twitch have come forward recently alleging sexual harassment, racism and discrimination in the gaming community.

Twitch, among other companies such as Insomniac Games, have expressed that they are investigating their workplace culture in response to the claims.

July 6, 8:52 a.m.: Updated with statement from Ubisoft.