Wednesday, April 13, 2016
Leslie Benzies, the Lead Designer of the Grand Theft Auto series, is suing Rockstar Games and parent company Take-Two for $150,000,000. Meanwhile, Take-Two is hitting back with a countersuit claiming Benzies is in breach of contract.
Benzies is accusing Rockstar co-founder Sam Houser of “numerous deceptions”, withholding bonus payments and, alongside Dan Houser, forcing him out of the company. Benzies left Rockstar in January, following a sabbatical.
“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,” reads a statement from Benzies’ legal representative.
“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.”
Take-Two denies the accusations and says that Benzies resigned from his position in April 2015, but didn’t offer good reason, therefore breaching the terms of his contract. According to the publisher, Sam Houser has full authority over whether Benzies receives royalties and how much they are.
The most recent Grand Theft Auto game, GTA V, is one of the most successful video games of all time, breaking numerous records for the speed and number of sales. At the last count over 60m copies of the game, on which Benzies was Lead Designer and Producer, have been shipped to retail.
This will not be the last we hear of this story.
Rockstar has released an official statement in regards to the news, blaming "significant performance and conduct issues" for the circumstances that lead to Benzies' departure. The studio also says Benzies' claims are "entirely without merit and in many instances downright bizarre."
“Leslie Benzies was a valued employee of our company for many years," said Rockstar. "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."
"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."
"We do not intend to comment further on this matter.”
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