In 2016, the former president of Grand Theft Auto V studio Rockstar North launched a lawsuit against Rockstar’s parent company, Take-Two, claiming he is owed $150 million in royalties and alleging that he was forced out of the company. Things aren’t looking great for Leslie Benzies in this case, as the New York Supreme Court recently ruled that the profit-sharing agreement that Benzies signed does not in fact entitle him to the full amount of damages he wanted to receive.
According to the ruling (via GI.biz), Take-Two successfully claimed that Benzies breached the royalty agreement he signed with the company in 2009, and is thus may not be entitled to the money. In 2012, Benzies because a Rockstar Principal for this contributions to Rockstar’s big games over the years. However, the Supreme Court noted that the language of the 2009 royalty plan “contains no language mandating equal payments to the principals.” Moreover, the terms of the agreement are “unambiguous” and are not overwritten by the 2012 agreement Benzies signed.
Benzies could still have a payday coming, however. The court noted that the litigation process is still only at the start. At this stage, it will not dismiss Benzies’ claim for royalties specific to the 2012 agreement. Take-Two has failed to show that, legally, “their interpretation of the 2012 Employment Agreement is the only reasonable one.” Additionally, the court preliminarily sided with Benzies in the matter related to his “improper” termination from Rockstar.
The original lawsuit claims that Take-Two executive encouraged Benzies to go on a lengthy sabbatical after GTA V came out so he could rest and come up with new ideas for future products. According to the lawsuit, when Benzies tried to return from his reported 17-month sabbatical, he found out to his surprise that he was out of a job. Not only that, but Benzies alleges that Rockstar founders Sam and Dan Houser allocated at least $93 million in profit-sharing payments to themselves. Benzies claims that after his sabbatical, he never got a penny from his supposedly promised profit-sharing opportunities.
In February 2016, Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick praised Benzies’ contributions to the Grand Theft Auto series and said he is “highly confident” the GTA franchise will move forward without issue in the wake of his departure. A year later, Benzies announced a new studio and an incredibly ambitious game called Everywhere. As its name suggests, the open-world game aims to allow players to go anywhere and do basically anything.
GTA V is one of the most successful video games in history. It’s shipped an astounding 90 million copies, making it reportedly the most successful piece of entertainment of any kind in history.