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

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

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

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

Sandberg and Kotick reportedly worked with a team that included active employees from Facebook and Activision, as well as paid outside consultants, to develop a plan to get the Mail to publish the stories.

Sandberg and her team are said to have been concerned that unflattering coverage of Kotick might tarnish her reputation as a women’s advocate — which includes her work with the nonprofit advocacy group Lean In.

Sources said the Wall Street Journal that Sandberg was first involved in efforts to sink the story in 2016, when she and Kotick first started dating, as well as in 2019, just before their split.

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

Facebook officials are actively investigating whether Sandberg’s conduct constituted a violation of company rules.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the Daily Mail’s digital arm reviewed court filings related to the lawsuits against Kotick. The ex-girlfriend obtained a restraining order after the Activision exec allegedly confronted her at her home.

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

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

Court records showed that the restraining order against Kotick was lifted shortly after it was implemented. Sources told the Wall Street Journal that Kotick’s accusers had told others that some of their claims were exaggerated or false. In addition, the Daily Mail is allegedly aware that some of the claims were false.

Sheryl Sandberg
Sandberg and her associates reportedly feared possible damage to their reputation as a women’s advocate.
Getty Images

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

“I told the Wall Street Journal that what I said about Bobby 8 years ago was wrong. It’s still wrong,” the woman said. “In fact, in 2014 I signed an affidavit clarifying that what I had said was not true. Despite this, the journal decided to use me for an article they wanted to publish about Bobby.”

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

According to the Journal, Kotick told his staff that Sandberg warned the Daily Mail that any article they published regarding the situation could damage the outlet’s relationship with Facebook — whose platform is a significant 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 asked for comment, a Meta spokesperson said Sandberg “never threatened MailOnline’s business relationship with Facebook to influence an editorial decision.”

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

Bobby Kotic
The Daily Mail stories allegedly 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 reports” about what Sandberg said during her deployment — including whether she mentioned Facebook or her role at the company.

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

Activision’s board of directors said in a lengthy statement that it was “aware of the circumstances that were reported in connection with an incident in 2014,” noting that Kotick “has been completely transparent with the board.”

Daily Mail home page
The Daily Mail never published the article on the allegations against Kotick.
Shutterstock / Chrisdorney

“The Board, through its attorney Skadden Arps, has carefully examined the facts and circumstances of the events, satisfied itself that the allegations were unfounded and determined that they concern a personal relationship unrelated to the business of the Company.” , Activision’s directors said in a statement.

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

Earlier this year, Microsoft bought Activision-Blizzard in a deal worth nearly $69 billion. The deal followed months of turmoil at Activision – including an intense scrutiny of Kotick’s handling of allegations of widespread workplace misconduct.

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

Ariel Zilber contributed to the coverage. Sheryl Sandberg pressured Daily Mail to spread stories about Bobby Kotick: report


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