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Games firm in legal dispute

Grand Theft developer in £105m royalties action

Grand Theft AutoOne of the developers of the best-selling computer game Grand Theft Auto is suing the company for £105 million in a row over royalties.

Leslie Benzies claims Bafta-winning Rockstar North forced him out of the company and denied him tens of millions of pounds for his part in producing the franchise.

He says he was encouraged to take what he though was a sabbatical from the Edinburgh firm two years ago only to find himself “locked out” of the company.

Mr Benzies has hired lawyers Locke Lord who have filed a lawsuit through the New York County Clerk.

The publisher has dismissed the allegation made and launched a counteraction against him, claiming he was not entitled to an equal share of the game’s earnings.

The company was co-founded by Sam and Dan Houser and originally called DMA Design. Mr Benzies joined in 1999 and was producer, and latterly studio head, for all the Grand Theft Auto games from GTA III onwards. Other titles he produced included Red Dead Redemption, Manhunt 2, LA Noire and Max Payne 3.

Mr Benzies, 45, also served as president of Rockstar North, now based in the former offices of The Scotsman in Holyrood Road.

The newspaper reports that during Mr Benzies’ six month sabbatical he found his email account was locked down 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.

There are claims of a power struggle at the top of the company.

Take Two Interactive, the parent company of Rockstar North, said in January that Mr Benzies had “decided not to return to work for the company”.

It said it was “grateful for Leslie’s contributions to Rockstar over the last 15 years as we worked together to make some amazing games.”

But Take Two and Rockstar claim in their complaint filed with the New York Southern District Court 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.”

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.”

Rockstar Games was awarded the prestigious BAFTA Fellowship award in March 2014, along with the Housers.

GTA V was the fastest-selling entertainment product in history, earning more than $1 billion in the first three days after its release in September 2013.

In 2014, Mr Benzies paid a reported £500,000 to acquire Edinburgh’s A-listed St Stephen’s Church in Stockbridge to save it for the community.

 

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