Grand Theft developer Benzies sues for $150m

A lawyer acting for Grand Theft Auto computer game developer Leslie Benzies — the Scot who is suing his former firm for what he alleges are $150 million in unpaid royalties — claimed Benzies was “enticed” by the Rockstar game company to take a sabbatical and then forced out of the firm.

In a statement, Christopher Bakes, Partner at Locke Lord LLP, claimed that while on sabbatical, 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 …”

Bakes claimed they sought to terminate Benzies’ 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.”

Rockstar Games has filed a countersuit against Benzies alleging a breach of contract and said his claims “are entirely without merit and in many instances downright bizarre” and it was very confident the matter would be resolved in its favor.

(Links to both lawsuits are pasted at the bottom of this story.)

Bakes alleged: “As the lawsuit describes, based upon agreements in place, as one of three named Rockstar Principals, Mr. Benzies is owed in excess of $150 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.”

Bakes said Benzies was the driving force behind hit titles Grand Theft Auto editions 3, 4 and 5 and that he was seeking to fairly settle his dispute with Take-Two Interactive Software Inc., Rockstar Games Inc., Rockstar North Ltd, Sam Houser and Dan Houser.

“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,” claimed Bakes.

“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.

“Mr. Benzies has spent the bulk of his life in the video game industry, and looks forward to reaching a fair settlement so he can continue creating great entertainment software in a respectful environment that truly values the work of game developers.”

In a statement, Rockstar Games said: “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.

“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.”

Benzies lawsuit: https://www.scribd.com/doc/308200451/Benzies-v-Rockstar

Rockstar lawsuit: https://www.scribd.com/doc/308199651/TAKE-TWO-INTERACTIVE-SOFTWARE-and-ROCKSTAR-GAMES-v-LESLIE-BENZIES

About the Author

Mark McSherry
Dalriada Media LLC sites are edited by veteran news journalist Mark McSherry, a former staff editor and reporter with Reuters, Bloomberg and major newspapers including the South China Morning Post, London's Sunday Times and The Scotsman. McSherry's journalism has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times, London's Evening Standard and Forbes. McSherry is also a professor of journalism and communication arts in universities and colleges in New York City. Scottish-born McSherry has an MBA from the University of Edinburgh and a Certificate in Global Affairs from New York University.