THE MAN WHO forged a multi-million pound career after writing video games from his home in Elgin is at the centre of a £105million lawsuit against his former company.
Leslie Benzies was president of the Edinburgh-based games empire Rockstar North, the company he guided to world-wide recognition through the phenomenally successful Grand Theft Auto games series.
In January, Rockstar announced that Mr Benzies has split from the company after taking a break from the industry, saying that he had voluntarily left the firm and wishing him well.
Then a spokesman for Rockstar North said: “Leslie helped us build an incredible team that will continue to create great experiences for our fans. He will always be a friend to the company and of course we are going to miss him but we wish him the absolute best for the future.”
However, it has been revealed that Mr Benzies is suing the company in a United States court for unpaid royalties, claiming that he was also effectively forced out of the company last year – claims that are being denied by Rockstar who say they are “entirely without merit”.
Mr Benzies’ legal representatives in the case issued a statement through lawyer Locke Lord, who said that his client was removed from the company after being enticed to take a sabbatical in 2014.
It has been claimed that while on that sabbatical Mr Benzies discovered “deceptions” on the parts of Take-Two, Rockstar, Rockstar North Ltd and Rockstar Games co-founders Sam and Dan Houser.
Mr Benzies’ legal team have alleged that when their client attempted to resume his duties at the end of his sabbatical in April last year, he was unable to enter the Rockstar North office in Edinburgh as his access device had been deactivated. After being let into the building by security, he was ordered to leave by the Rockstar office manager “without reason”.
The legal statement added: “Mr. Benzies has spent the bulk of his life in the video game industry, and looks forward to reaching a fair settlement so he can continue creating great entertainment software in a respectful environment that truly values the work of game developers.”
A statement from Rockstar refuted the claims, saying: “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 favour. 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.”
Leslie Benzies was born in Aberdeen but moved to Dufftown and later Elgin when he was a child. It was the appropriation of his dads’ Dragon 32 computer when he was just 11-years-old that changed his life forever.
He joined DMA Design as a video game programmer in 1999 having started his working life with IT firm Moray Instruments and Computers on the Tyock Industrial Estate, where he repaired computers for local businesses.
DMA design was later rebranded as Rockstar North – and went on to achieve world-wide fame for a series of games, but none more than their GTA series.