Back in January of this year, it was reported that Rockstar North studio head Leslie Benzies had left the company after being on a sabbatical for the past 17 months following the release of Grand Theft Auto V. It turns out that this isn’t exactly true. In a press release issued today, Benzies claims that he was forced out of Rockstar and was denied royalties which amount to $150 million.
Back in 2008, after years of working for the company, Benzies entered a long-term agreement — along with Rockstar founders Sam and Dan Houser — with Take-Two Interactive and Rockstar North. According to a press release, the contract was written alongside Take-Two’s introduction of a profit sharing based “incentive compensation program.” Benzies’ contract and payment from Take-Two was said to be identical to that of the Houser brothers’ until his departure from the company. Benzies claims that there was “mounting resentment” from Sam Houser because he received the same amount of compensation that the brothers did.
Christopher Bakes, partner at the law firm Locke Lorde LLP, told Polygon that “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.”
“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,” said Bakes. “After being let inside by building security, Mr. Benzies was then ordered to leave by the Rockstar North office manager without reason.”
As if things weren’t ugly enough already, Take-Two Interactive and Rockstar Games have filed a counter-suit against Benzies, citing a breach of contract. A document from the United States District Court claims that Benzies left the company without “good reason” and therefore is not entitled to any of the pre- or post-termination royalties he would have otherwise received from Take-Two’s compensation plan.
“Benzies, however, continues to demand parity with respect to pre-termination royalty payments and post-termination royalty payments,” claims the document. “The parties to this action have sought unsuccessfully to resolve this issue through mediation and now seek judicial clarification that would resolve this controversy.”
This isn’t the last we’ll hear about this so stay tuned for any further updates as they develop.