The former head of Rockstar North – the company that brought you Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption and the very best Table Tennis game ever made – is suing the company and its parent company for a cool $150 million.
Former Rockstar North head Leslie Benzies claims the company owes him a fortune in royalties. At the beginning of January, Benzies left the company after a sabbatical. He claims that he was ousted from Rockstar after his return.
Says the statement on the suit, filed by legal firm Locke Lord LLC:
“At the root of the dispute is a sabbatical that Mr. Benzies was enticed by Rockstar to take after leading the company to world-record breaking sales and revenue.”
“As described in the lawsuit, while on sabbatical, Mr. Benzies discovered numerous deceptions on the part of Take-Two, Rockstar, Rockstar North Ltd, Sam Houser and Dan Houser, who sought to force him out of the company and terminate his portion of royalty payments based upon arbitrary actions by the company’s royalty Allocation Committee, a committee that may or may not have actually ever met. As the lawsuit describes, based upon agreements in place, as one of three named Rockstar Principals, Mr. Benzies is owed in excess of $150,000,000 million in unpaid royalties.
“The lawsuit describes that Mr. Benzies, Sam Houser and brother Dan Houser were official “Rockstar Principals” by identical contracts each had with Take-Two. This was the company’s way of rewarding Mr. Benzies by bringing him into the highest compensation tier. Having reached this height, Mr. Benzies’ removal after years of receiving compensation identical to the Housers was the product of what turned out to be a lengthy deception by Sam Houser. The complaint describes Sam Houser’s mounting resentments after many years of high praise.
“During the lengthy mediation, as the complaint describes, Take-Two breached its mediation obligations by issuing an out-of-bounds and inaccurate press statement regarding his sabbatical and that he would not be coming back to work. In fact, when attempting to resume his duties upon conclusion of his sabbatical on April 1, 2015, Mr. Benzies found himself unable to enter the Rockstar North office because his facilities access device had been deactivated. After being let inside by building security, Mr. Benzies was then ordered to leave by the Rockstar North office manager without reason.”
Benzies claims he was ousted, while back in January, Rockstar says that he chose not to resume his duties after his sabbatical.
“We can confirm that Leslie Benzies went on sabbatical on September 1, 2014 and has decided not to return to work for the company. We are very grateful for Leslie’s contributions to Rockstar over the last 15 years as we worked together to make some amazing games,” they said in January.
Rockstar has also responded to Benzies’ suit, saying his claims are “downright bizarre.”
“Leslie Benzies was a valued employee of our company for many years. Sadly, the events that culminated in his resignation ultimately stem from his significant performance and conduct issues. Despite our repeated efforts to address and resolve these issues amicably both before and after his departure, Leslie has chosen to take this route in an attempt to set aside contract terms to which he previously agreed on multiple occasions,” Rockstar Games told Gamesindustry.boz
“His claims are entirely without merit and in many instances downright bizarre, and we are very confident this matter will be resolved in our favor. A core ethos since Rockstar’s inception has been the concept of ‘the team’. It is deeply disappointing and simply wrong for Leslie to attempt to take personal credit for what has always been the tremendous efforts of the entire Rockstar team, who remain hard at work delivering the most immersive and engaging entertainment experiences we can for our fans.”
Benzies had been with the company since 1999, heading the house of GTA, and making sure the games you’ve come to love were released on time.