Do you remember when Leslie Benzies, the former president of Rockstar North, left the Edinburgh-based developer earlier in the year? Having enjoyed a long sabbatical prior to his departure, it seemed like the suit was simply burnt out. However, that's not the case according to a $150 million lawsuit that he's filed against Take-Two, as he claims that his contract was deceptively terminated during his time off, and that he's owed a significant amount of royalties.
"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," explained Christopher Bakes, a partner at Benzies' legal team Locke Lord LLP.
"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," continued Bakes. "The complaint describes Sam Houser's mounting resentments after many years of high praise." Indeed, the law firm has obtained access to numerous emails from Houser to Benzies, including phrases such as "So proud to be partners with you" and "Together forever".
But there's more: Benzies claims that the company lied about his departure. The firm said that the suit had "decided not to return to work for the company" following his exit in January, but he alleges that he tried to return all the way back on 1st April 2015, only to find that his key to the building had been deactivated. His sabbatical started on 1st September 2014, so it's implied that he didn't originally intend to take so much time off.
To make matters even crazier, it's suggested that the Housers were the ones who encouraged Benzies to take the sabbatical to begin with. "The Defendants flew Mr. Benzies to New York and encouraged him to take a six-month sabbatical to recharge his batteries," the lawsuit says. It's then implied that, while he was taking time off, he was cut out of the company's profit-sharing system entirely. "A significant and dramatic departure from the former practice of profit-sharing equality among the three Rockstar Principals," the suit concludes.
Rockstar has, of course, responded to the claims: "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 favour.
"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."