Ex-Rockstar North boss sues firm for £105m over royalties

THE Scot who helmed the company behind the hit Grand Theft Auto video game series is suing his former employers for £105 million.

Wednesday, 13th April 2016, 8:29 pm
Updated Wednesday, 13th April 2016, 8:39 pm
Former Rockstar North president Leslie Benzies is suing the company over royalties Picture: Jane Barlow

In an extraordinary royalty row that lifts the lid on one of Scotland’s most successful yet secretive firms, Leslie Benzies claims Rockstar North tried to force him out and reneged on a deal that would have secured him tens of millions of pounds for his part in producing the critically acclaimed franchise.

In a 70-page lawsuit, filed with the New York County Clerk, Mr Benzies said he was encouraged to take a sabbatical from the Edinburgh studio in 2014 only to discover that he had been “ousted”.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

He claims Sam and Dan Houser, the founders of the firm, allocated £65m in profit-sharing payments to themselves, with a further £367m in profits “unaccounted for”.

However, the publisher has dismissed the allegation made by Mr Benzies and launched a counter-action against him.The 45-year-old worked until January as president of Rockstar North, based in the former Scotsman office building in the capital’s Holyrood Road.

The legal action centres around an “incentive compensation programme” based on profit sharing, with Mr Benzies claiming he and the Houser brothers were due identical payments. However, he said that he has not received any money since April 2014.

During his six-month sabbatical, the lawsuit adds, he found his e-mail account was locked and his company Blackberry was disabled. On attempting to return to the Edinburgh headquarters, he said his pass no longer worked and that he was ordered to leave by an office manager.

In its complaint, filed with the New York Southern District Court, Rockstar claim that “nowhere does the royalty plan provide that [Mr] Benzies is entitled to parity or, indeed, to any minimum royalty allocation, either before or after termination”. It added that as he “resigned without good reason,” the royalty agreement means he is not entitled to any royalties he has not already received.

In a statement Rockstar Games said: “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.”