By Sarah E. Needleman and Stephen Nakrosis 

Activision Blizzard Inc. on Tuesday said Frances F. Townsend has joined the videogame giant to serve as its executive vice president for corporate affairs, and has been appointed by the board to serve as corporate secretary and chief compliance officer.

Ms. Townsend, who brings years of federal government experience, will oversee government affairs, public policy and communications, among other corporate functions, the Santa Monica, Calif.-based company said.

Activision Blizzard, the largest U.S. game publisher by market capitalization, has players in nearly 200 countries and is made up of several units, including "Candy Crush Saga" creator King. In an interview, Ms. Townsend said she'll be responsible for ensuring the company is in compliance in each of those markets.

"Oftentimes, these laws and regulations are not in harmony and so the real challenge is making sure that the folks who work in each individual area understand what the responsibilities and obligations are there," she said.

Ms. Townsend is paying close attention to how the U.S. will handle relations with China, the world's largest videogame market, under the Biden administration. Late last year, Chinese conglomerate Tencent Holdings Ltd. published Activision Blizzard's "Call of Duty: Mobile" game in China.

"The most important thing we care about in terms of compliance there is the protection of personal identifying information," Ms. Townsend said. "We take the safety and security of our players wherever they are very seriously."

Last year the Trump administration pushed to remove Chinese apps TikTok and WeChat from American devices and expressed interest in identifying U.S. tech companies that have Chinese investors as a matter of national security. Tencent holds a small stake in Activision Blizzard and a large one in "Fortnite" maker Epic Games Inc. of Cary, N.C. It also fully owns Los Angeles-based Riot Games Inc., known for its "League of Legends" franchise.

The Biden administration plans to allow a sweeping Trump-era rule aimed at combating Chinese technology threats to take effect this month, The Wall Street Journal reported last week. The rule enables the Commerce Department to ban technology-related business transactions that it determines pose a national security threat, part of an effort to secure U.S. supply chains.

Another area of focus for Ms. Townsend will be efforts by legislators in Europe and the U.S. to ban videogame "loot boxes," which are packs of virtual goods whose contents are unknown until after they have been purchased.

While Activision Blizzard has moved away from them, "it's important that we are involved in the conversation as regulations are being considered, " she said. "Often legislators are legislating on things they're not entirely familiar with, and when they do that, it can have consequences that they didn't intend."

Ms. Townsend was assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism under former President George W. Bush and was deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism from 2003 to 2004, Activision Blizzard said. She also served in the U.S. Department of Justice during the administrations of former presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, the company said.

Most recently, she was vice chairwoman, general counsel and chief administrative officer at MacAndrews & Forbes Inc., and before that she was a corporate partner with Baker Botts LLP, Activision Blizzard said. Ms. Townsend also serves on several nonprofit boards, including the Atlantic Council, the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Council on Foreign Relations, according to the company.

Ms. Townsend said she plays "Candy Crush" and other mobile games, and that thanks to her sons, ages 19 and 25, she's familiar with "Call of Duty."

"When we're all together for the holidays, this is something we all do together," she said, adding that she isn't sure which impresses them more -- her new job at Activision Blizzard or her past stint at the White House. "I cannot keep up with my sons, but it's a lot of fun."

Write to Sarah E. Needleman at

and Stephen Nakrosis at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

March 02, 2021 20:05 ET (01:05 GMT)

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