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GTA Throwback: Why did former Rockstar North president sue the company for $150 million?

Leslie Benzies (L) and Dan Houser (R) (Image credits: polygon)
Leslie Benzies (L) and Dan Houser (R) (Image credits: polygon)
Rahul Bhushan
Modified 13 Oct 2020, 08:50 IST

For decades, Rockstar Games has been a publisher that hasn't shied away from controversy. With games such as the GTA series always in the news for seemingly "problematic" and "voyeuristic" content, Rockstar has sort of been the outlaw of the industry.

For two-plus decades, Rockstar has created not just games, but cultural landmarks such as GTA and Red Dead Redemption. Any publisher would be satisfied with merely one culturally relevant title, but this company has created multiple such offerings.

The kind of success that GTA has achieved wouldn't have been possible without a talented team behind it. One of the key figures in the production of Grand Theft Auto, and several other projects, was Leslie Benzies, the former president of Rockstar North.

GTA: Leslie Benzies leaves and sues Rockstar for $150 million

Benzies, one of the most influential figures behind not just GTA, but many other projects from Rockstar, left the company in 2016. Two years prior, he went on a sabbatical, before announcing his departure formally in 2016.

The reasons for his exit were, at that moment, not known. But only three months later, news broke that Benzies was pursuing litigation against Rockstar and its parent, Take-Two Interactive, claiming $150 million in unpaid royalties.

Benzies also lobbed accusations at Sam Houser, co-founder of Rockstar and writer of the GTA franchise alongside Dan Houser (his brother). He accused Sam of 'lengthy deception' caused by 'mounting resentments after many years of high praise.'

With animosities already high, Take-Two then filed a countersuit for "breach of contract" against Benzies.

Benzies' statement regarding his departure from Rockstar read:

"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."
Image credits: vc news, twitter)
Image credits: vc news, twitter)

The main point of contention, apparently, was that Benzies was forced out of Rockstar after having returned from his sabbatical. According to his statements, Benzies was allegedly locked out of his office in Rockstar once he came back.

After a lengthy dispute, the case would finally be put to rest in 2019, with both parties agreeing to a confidential agreement out of court.

Benzies has since started a new company, Build A Rocket Boy Games, and is reportedly working on a title that could rival GTA someday.

Published 09 Oct 2020, 10:51 IST
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