Former Rockstar North president Leslie Benzies is suing Grand Theft Auto publisher Take-Two and developer Rockstar. In response, Take-Two has filed a countersuit that Benzies’ legal counsel is calling “sparse.”
Earlier today, attorney Christopher Bakes issued a press release that details Benzies’ complaint against Take-Two and Rockstar Games as well as Sam and Dan Houser who run the development studio responsible for the open-world crime series. Benzies claims that those named parties owe him more than $150 million in royalties. The complaint also alleges that Sam Houser methodically pushed Benzies out of the Rockstar organization through a series of deceptions. Take-Two filed a countersuit (as Polygon reported) that claims Benzies was in breach of contract.
These dueling complaints could come to a head in court, and it could reveal quite a lot about the inner workings of the studio behind the mega-successful Grand Theft Auto games. GTA V, which debuted in 2013, surpassed 60 million copies shipped to retailers, and it is among the most lucrative properties in the $99.3 billion gaming industry. Despite first debuting more than three holiday-shopping seasons ago, GTA V has continually ranked in the top 10 on the sales charts for physical retailers in the United States. The franchise is also Take-Two’s top brand.
GamesBeat reached out to Benzies’ for a comment on Take-Two’s countersuit, and his representation provided the following comment.
“The short answer is that we believe the detailed and extensive factual allegations contained in Mr. Benzies’ Complaint amply address those contained in the somewhat sparse Take-Two Complaint,” Bakes told GamesBeat over email. “Needless to say, Mr. Benzies believes the issues between the parties are far broader than as presented by Take-Two, and Mr. Benzies’ Complaint reflects that.”
The “sparse” comment likely refers to Take-Two’s grounds for the “breach of contract” claim. In the publisher’s complaint, the company essentially says that Benzies agreed to never contest the royalty allocation, and he is in violation of that agreement by demanding parity.
“Benzies agreed not to assert the very claim he has threatened to assert,” reads Take-Two’s complaint. “As a direct and proximate result of Benzies material breaches, [Take-Two] has suffered damages in an amount to be determined at trial.”
So Take-Two readily admits that it did not “allocate royalties” to Benzies, but it claims it is within its legal right to do so. It is instead saying that Benzies signed away his legal right to ask for those royalties.
Benzies does seem to address this issue in his original filing. He details a recent history between himself and Take-Two/Rockstar that reveals that the company suggested he go on a mutually agreed upon sabbatical that quickly turned into a tool for Houser to push Benzies out of the company. It is possible that if Benzies gets the chance to present that chain of events to a jury, they will find it reasonable that he asked for royalties.
In response to all of this, Rockstar Games did provide GamesBeat with a comment of its own:
“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. His claims are entirely without merit and in many instances downright bizarre, and we are very confident this matter will be resolved in our favor. A core ethos since Rockstar’s inception has been the concept of “the team”. It is deeply disappointing and simply wrong for Leslie to attempt to take personal credit for what has always been the tremendous efforts of the entire Rockstar team, who remain hard at work delivering the most immersive and engaging entertainment experiences we can for our fans.
We do not intend to comment further on this matter.”
Updated at 2:10 p.m. with Rockstars statement.