Riot Games announces new CEO as it emerges the company will pay out over $100 million to 1,548 women to settle gender discrimination case

Riot Games HQ
(Image credit: Brian van der Brug (Getty Images))

Riot Games is to pay out over $100 million to 1,548 women who are or were employed by the gaming giant, as part of a previously announced settlement in a 2018 class action lawsuit about gender discrimination. The new details come from an April filing by Rust Consulting (thanks Axios) which outlines the nature of a late 2021 settlement, agreed to by Riot, under which Riot will make initial payments of between $2,500 and $5,000 to women who worked there, with an additional sum based on role and tenure that could rise up to $156,056. Seven women in the suit chose to opt-out of the settlement.

The payments mark an end to a class action lawsuit that began in 2018, was settled in 2021, and had that agreement approved by a court in July 2022. The suit alleged systemic sexism and gender-based discrimination at the studio. Riot commissioned its own investigation of the claims prior to the settlement, and said at the time this showed "gender discrimination (in pay or promotion), sexual harassment, and retaliation are not systemic issues at Riot," but also that "some Rioters have had experiences that did not live up to our values or culture."

Since the suit happened, Riot has announced various initiatives including hiring a chief diversity officer, various internal reports and plans into its workplace culture, and has been releasing annual diversity and inclusion reports to show its progress. Last month it published the report for 2022, in which the company says women now account for 27.5% of its staff, and 25.9% of leadership staff (both figures mark an increase from 24% and 20% in 2020).

These efforts to clean up the company's act were not helped, however, by another suit launched in 2019 against Riot and CEO Nicolo Laurent. Former employee Sharon O'Donnell worked as Laurent's executive assistant until she was fired in July 2020, and the suit contained various allegations of inappropriate and sexually suggestive behaviour. An internal investigation by Riot concluded "that there was no evidence that Laurent harassed, discriminated, or retaliated against" Sharon O’Donnell. It is unclear whether the suit continues or has been settled.

Perhaps the timing is coincidence, or perhaps Laurent is reading the room, but shortly after details of the class action settlement were reported, Riot has announced he will be stepping down from his role as CEO. The new Riot CEO will be A. Dylan Jadeja, who joined the company as Chief Financial Officer in 2011, became Chief Operating Officer in 2014, and President in 2017. The pair will work together over the next few months as Jadeja transitions into the role.

"I can imagine this news may feel sudden, but transparently, it’s a decision that’s been on my mind for a while," wrote Laurent in a letter to employees. "[My time at Riot is] a story I’m very proud of, but if I’m being completely honest, it’s also been tough. Not the grind, the hours, the stress… I’ve grown a tank build, so I can handle that part. It's really the personal trade-offs that have been hard and the sacrifices my wife and kids have made for my career, including all our expatriations. We’ve always been ok with this as a family, as long as we rebalance at some point. Now is that time. Especially since we miss France so much, and want to move back."

Laurent says he's not joining another company, and will continue to work for Riot in an advisory capacity. He does not address any of the various suits brought against the company over his tenure, nor the issue of culture directly, though the closest he comes is describing one of Jadeja's biggest strengths as "empathy".

"The best leaders for the future will be the ones who can lead at scale, with empathy, and Dylan is one of them," said Laurent. "He’s genuine and humble in his leadership, but also unafraid to ask the tough questions to get to the best answer."

Jadeja issued a brief missive alongside the above, which again delicately tap-dances around the elephant in the room.

"As CEO, it is fair to assume that I may do some things differently than those before me, but I want to assure you that the goal for us—together—will not waver," said Jadeja. "And that is to make Riot, unequivocally, the most trusted and authentic game company in the world… built by players, for players."

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."