GTA producer and Rockstar North boss Leslie Benzies, who left the company in January, is now suing the studio for $150 million over unpaid royalties.
Benzies files $150 million suit against Rockstar North
Benzies joined the developer in 1999 and played a major role in the development of Grand Theft Auto series. He went on sabbatical after the release of GTA 5 in September 2014, and never returned.
In his suit filed against Rockstar and parent company Take-Two, via GI.biz, Benzies claims Rockstar founders Sam and Dan Houser forced him from company and withheld royalties.
Christopher Bakes, a partner with the Locke Lord law firm representing Benzies, stated Benzies did not voluntarily leave the company after his sabbatical ended on April 1, 2015. When he returned to work, he 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,” said Bakes in an official statement.
The 71-page lawsuit also states the Houser brothers of unjustly terminating $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.”
Take-Two was undergoing a mediation with Benzies over the unpaid royalties when Rockstar issues a statement to the press that he had decided not to return to the company. Bakes called the statement “out-of-bounds” and an “inaccurate press statement” in breach of mediation proceedings.
According to the filing, Benzies also claims Sam Houser’s harbored “mounting resentment” over him receiving the same compensation from Take-Two as both of the Houser brothers.
Another Game Company
But that’s not all: the documents filed by Benzies claim he and the Houser brothers formed Another Game Company in 2009, which was originally set up as a business entity with the help of Take-Two to handle “distribution of royalty payments to the trio,” states GI.biz.
And, it seems there was even more to it than that:
“AGC was created by the Rockstar Principals [both the Housers and Benzies] to allow them to be able to leave Take-Two, and collectively launch a new independent company, with favorable economic and IP-based rights stemming in large part from Take-Two and Rockstar. The Rockstar Principals would collectively enjoy royalty-free rights to use certain Rockstar and Take-Two intellectual property, and financing arising from the Royalty Plan.”
All was apparently handled by Sam Houser, and during Benzies’ six-month sabbatical, the royalty plan paid out $93 million to the Housers, with up to $523 million in additional money as yet unaccounted for.
Take-Two counters with its own suit
A counter-suit filed by Take-Two and Rockstar states Benzies “resigned without Good Reason” and is not entitled to post-termination royalties. Had he left the company for Good Reason or had been “terminated without Cause,” the Royalty Plan would have remained valid, according to Take-Two.
The companies claim the issue would not be resolved during mediation proceeding, and it will now seek “judicial clarification” in order to “resolve this controversy.”
Take-Two and Rockstar are also seeking compensatory damages against Benzies as well as “costs, expenses, disbursements, and reasonable counsel fees in an amount to be determined at trial.”
If you head through here, you can look over the counter suit filed by Take-Two