Former Rockstar North president Leslie Benzies sues for $150 million, claiming Rockstar Games owes him royalty payments for his work on the Grand Theft Auto series.
Earlier this year it was announced that Leslie Benzies would be leaving Rockstar North after almost two decades at the developer. Rockstar Games explained that Benzies, who was a key developer in the Grand Theft Auto series and also worked as a producer on games such as Red Dead Redemption and L.A. Noire, had chosen not to return to his position as president of Rockstar North following a sabbatical that began in September 2014. At the time, Rockstar Games also said that Benzies would “always be a friend” to the company, that they would miss him and they also wished the developer “the absolute best” for the future.
However, it now seems that Benzies' departure was less than amicable as he has now filed a lawsuit against Rockstar. The lawsuit details “numerous deceptions” from Rockstar Games, Take-Two Interactive (Rockstar parent company) and Sam and Dan Houser (Rockstar co-founders), and it also accuses the Houser brothers of trying to force Benzies from the company, as well as denying him $150 million in royalty payments "based upon arbitrary actions by the company's royalty Allocation Committee, a committee that may or may not have actually ever met." The lawsuit also accuses Sam Houser of having “mounting resentment” against Benzies as a result of Benzies receiving the same amount of compensation from Take-Two as the Houser brothers.
Another claim, detailed in a statement from Christopher Bakes (a partner with Locke Lord LLP, the firm representing Benzies), is that “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.” It also explains that “after being let inside by building security, Mr. Benzies was then ordered to leave by the Rockstar North office manager without reason.”
The lawsuit also alleges that the sabbatical wasn’t Benzies' idea and that “the Defendants flew Mr. Benzies to New York and encouraged him to take a six-month sabbatical to recharge his batteries.” During this time the Housers allocated $93 million in profit-sharing payments to themselves, while “Mr. Benzies did not receive a single dollar in profit-sharing payments,” says the lawsuit.
Take-Two and Rockstar have also counter-sued Benzies, saying that between April 2015 and January 2016 the parties had been trying to settle the dispute and that by disputing the the royalty compensation committee, Benzies’ lawsuit is a breach of contract. According to Game Informer, this is an effort to make the courts settle the matter.
While it’s currently unclear just how long it will take for Rockstar and Benzies to agree, with or without the courts’ help, this spells out another sticky legal battle for the Grand Theft Auto developer. In addition to this royalties lawsuit, the company is also facing claims from Lindsay Lohan that it used her likeness in Grand Theft Auto 5 and it is also suing the BBC over its Grand Theft Auto drama (though it’s unclear where that lawsuit stands). There’s a lot of work for Rockstar’s lawyers there, but Game Rant will update with any future developments.