It seems that the parting of ways between former GTA V producer Leslie Benzies and Rockstar Games wasn’t as amicable as we thought.
The current, rather complex and volatile situation which we’re about to explain is pretty obscure. There’s no telling what really went on in the background and who is to blame, but since the initial news made the rounds, there have been some official statements about the matter.
Back in the Septermber of 2014, Leslie Benzies went on a sabbatical which ended up dragging on longer than initially planned and culminated in the announcement that he decided not to return to Rockstar. The official announcement came from Rockstar itself, along with comments from Take-Two Interactive’s Strauss Zelnick, who praised Benzies but said that he does not know anything about Benzies’ future plans.
As far as the statements were concerned, both parties bid each other farewell on good terms. This wasn’t surprising at all considering Benzies’ long and fruitful history with Rockstar and his influence on the GTA games. Benzies has been producer on the franchise since GTA III and many think that his influence was one of the key elements that catapulted the IP to its current fame.
However this most recent development indicates that things weren’t all sunshine, rainbows and heartfelt goodbyes. Benzies has in the past few days sued Take-Two Interactive, Rockstar North and the Houser brothers for $150 million dollars.
The lawsuit concerns unpaid royalties on Take-Two’s behalf. Benzies’ is also claiming that in the months leading up to him leaving for sabbatical, several attempts to force him out of the company were made. He also allegedly discovered other infractions on Rockstar’s part. The law firm representing him provided a statement as to why Benzies is going to court.
While on sabbatical, Mr. Benzies discovered numerous deceptions […] sought to force him out of the company and terminate his portion of royalty payments based upon arbitrary actions[…]
When elaborating on the subject, the rep also revealed that there was quite a bit of friction between Benzies and Sam Houser, one of the co-founders of Rockstar. The two, along with Dan Houser entered a business arrangement with Take-Two Interactive in 2008, under whose label their games are being published since.
One of the first points where the tale deviates is whether or not it was Benzies’ decision to leave Rockstar. According to Take-Two, Benzies chose not to return, while Benzies claims he attempted to go back to work on the 1st of April (bad timing?) in 2015 only to find his ID badge annulled. Once he was let in, he was promptly removed – according to his account, at least.
So much about this issue is mired in mystery that no-one can really say what truly happened, and which side is the victim here. Rockstar has filed a counter-suit since claiming that Benzies forfeited his rights to pre-and-post termination royalties due to breaching his contract and leaving the company without due cause.
Benzies, however, continues to demand parity with respect to pre-termination royalty payments and post-termination royalty payments. The parties to this action have sought unsuccessfully to resolve this issue through mediation and now seek judicial clarification that would resolve this controversy.
The above statement was released by Take-Two’s legal team following the filing of the counter-suit. The mentioned counter-suit has since been published on the internet and can be viewed, for free, by anyone. The suit contains a full and detailed run-down of events and circumstances surrounding the case and considering the kind of media attention this has gained, Rockstar wouldn’t be so open about its defense.
To reiterate, currently there is absolutely no way to know what really happened.
However, if Benzies’ claims are indeed correct, we think it is unlikely that Take-Two would risk the kind of controversy that could arise if the Court rules in Benzies’ favor. The rule of thumb when it comes to cases like this is that companies usually prefer to deal with situations on the down low, and any settlement details are generally kept confidential.
Whichever way this goes, it is always sad to see long lasting partnerships and friendships end this way. Rockstar and the GTA franchise grew into what it is today under the guidance of Benzies and the Housers. Seeing such a fruitful relationship degrade into a legal battle over cash is disheartening.
Regardless, Rockstar acknowledges Benzies’ contributions in a statement regarding the saddening case, however makes mention of misconduct on his behalf, making this situation a clear cut affair of shifting blame, with both sides accusing the other.
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.[…]
Whichever way this goes, it will almost certainly mean an end of an era for both Rockstar and GTA as a whole.
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