1. There was only "rot" because she saved it.
had saved it D&D would still be sold by TSR and not WotC.
2. It didn't fail. It got sold, and continued on. It's not like she destroyed D&D and you can't play it anymore. From a purely business perspective, she bought a company on the cheap, kept it going (and made a good deal of money off of it), and then cashed out with no liability.
No, she didn't destroy the game
. Yes, she gets all the credit for failing to save the company, or to put it another way; she bears responsibility for destroying the company. And IT DID FAIL.
D&D does not exist because she
saved it. It exists because WotC
saved it, not her. And frankly that was a VERY dicey decision to pour money into that black hole on WotC's part. If 3E had not been as well-received as it was they could well have just written it all off as a loss.
3. I will point out, one more time, that business failures are a part of life and the American way of doing business, and yet, for some reason, no one holds the multitude of male CEOs and owners up to this impossible standard. Seriously, go through all of the men in the TTRPG field whose companies folded or were bought out. How many of them have the level of vitriol directed at them that Williams does?
I'll give you my assessment of why she is so hated - and it has nothing to do with misogyny.
1: She was invited to work at the company by Gygax and she ultimately had no moral or ethical qualms about screwing him over in a huge way. "It's just business," only goes so far to justify one's actions.
2: She hated the game that was the reason the company existed and despised the customers who bought and played it.
3: She apparently thought herself as quite the businessperson but in 10+ years of running TSR she DID NOT solve its clearly precarious financial position when she took over, and instead - REGARDLESS of the success/popularity of TSR products - only made the company's finances worse. Gygax may not have been able to do any better, but he sure as heck couldn't have done much worse.
4: Here's a bit of timeline as I understand it
and have been able to piece together over many years. Gygax may have always been the "face" of the company but he had not fully controlled it between 1975 and 1985 because he always owned too few shares.
A 1982 reorganization put Gygax as head of one of four
divisions: TSR Entertainment. That was when he moved out to the west coast and, obviously, did not pinch pennies
for the company, but was NOT in charge of it either. He was a little fish in the big Hollywood shark tank.
In 1983 earnings were less than predicted (those predictions were, it appears, wildly
optimistic), but still increasing. In 1984 TSR's creditors insisted on 3 people being added to the board of directors to exert OUTSIDE influence on the company, and the CEO actually became Richard Koenings.
In 1985, for 6 months between March and October, Gygax finally had a majority of shares again in the company he co-founded and thus had full control of it. At this time the Blume brothers decide they want out of the company. Gygax can't afford to buy them out and can't arrange financing. In a private meeting, where nobody really knows what was said, it seems Gygax EITHER agreed to buy them out but was apparently trusting to luck to arrange to afford it, or there was misunderstanding and Gygax thought he was only agreeing to help
them find someone to buy their shares at the price they were demanding for them. But they make public their intent to sell after than and then later get impatient when Gygax fails to hold up his end of the apparent verbal agreement to buy them out.
AFTER THAT, in April 1985 Williams is then brought in by Gygax as a VP. She buys a lot of shares, giving the company a lot of cash it desperately needs, but Gygax is still in control. It soon turns out that Williams and Gygax can't stand each other. Mind you that Gygax is still in control but he doesn't take direct action against her, which I think he could have if he'd had a mind to.
Then, in October of 1985, the Blumes - to put not too fine a point on it - conspired with Lorraine Williams to sell their shares to her just prior to a board meeting. This did not get them out of the company and in fact Kevin Blume bought 700 MORE shares of the company. This was a move explicitly geared by these three to simultaneously remove Gygax from any hope of ever having control again and effectively kick him to the curb: At the board meeting they are discussing royalty payments to authors. Gygax wants authors to retain rights to their work but the board argues that the contracts say different. Gygax wonders aloud if they would find it easier to pay HIM royalties if he weren't an employee and maybe he should resign. When they take this comment seriously Gygax realizes something is up and, after asking, learns that Williams bought shares but not enough on her own for controlling interest. However, asking FURTHER, he finds that Kevin Blume, who is supposedly trying to GET OUT of the company, has actually bought MORE shares. THAT gives the Blumes and Williams combined the controlling interest. Gygax is ASKED to resign and refuses, though there's no point. He is then voted out as company president, CEO, and even as a board member. He is retained as an employee.
Sommer is voted chairman of the board, Williams is voted president and CEO. Gygax is voted to receive a comparable severance package to what the Blumes are getting.
Gamers who bought TSR products LIKED Gygax. They met him at conventions and gamed with him. They didn't know Williams.
She was only a VP up until that point for a few months. It is no surprise then that they should despise her once they learn that she both took over the company and kicked Gygax entirely out of it - even if it wasn't all her doing.
5: Four years
after all that drama TSR releases 2nd Edition in 1989. However, while in charge of TSR she alienates staff and huge swaths of the company's customers by both her public statements and corporate legal actions against customers making their own
RPG and D&D related
content available on the rising internet.
business decisions over the course of the decade that she was president and CEO do not analyze and come to grips with the company's broken business model that she inherited. It does not remove the sword of Damocles which the company had been struggling under pretty much since it's inception. If anything she just makes it worse despite
2E being (at least initially) a solid seller. Rather than placing the company on a more firm financial footing decisions are made that only expose them to worse risks and losses, and those birds finally all come home to roost.
That is all HER doing. She was not the worst person in the world, nor even the worst business person. But she gets credit where it's due. She screwed over Gygax. She hated the game and it's players. SHE drove the company into final collapse. Gygax was also NOT a good business person, but he was DRIVEN out in a not just ruthless business move but one that reeks of just being vindictive. From what I can tell EGG was at least trying to find a way to solve the company's long-standing financial issues for the 6 months that he was truly in a position to do that. But the banks wouldn't help because the company had such longstanding financial issues and while he needed investors he desperately didn't want OUTSIDERS running the company either. That was Gygax's biggest failure - not treating the business as a business
, but more as a paying personal hobby that he didn't want other people screwing with.
This has nothing to do with misogyny. It has everything to do with Williams treatment of Gygax, the game itself, the people who play it, the other employees, and HER bad business decisions. If anyone says she blew it because she's a woman I'll be right there telling them they're wrong and a jerk. But I don't care to be in that position of defending her when she has so much
responsibility in the entire affair that she rightfully earned
much of the reputation she is given.