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Former Rockstar North boss is suing Take-Two for $150m

UPDATE: Rockstar hits back, calls claims "downright bizarre".

UPDATE 13th April 2016: Rockstar has dismissed allegations made in a lawsuit from former Rockstar North chief Leslie Benzies, calling the claims "downright bizarre".

In a statement, the Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption publisher said Benzies' resignation was fuelled by "significant performance and conduct issues", and said the lawsuit was an attempt to brush aside contract terms he'd previously agreed to.

Here's the statement:

ORIGINAL STORY 12th April 2016: Former president of Rockstar North Leslie Benzies is suing Take-Two Interactive for $150m.

Leslie Benzies (left) and Dan Houser (right).

According to Benzies' legal team, the company deceived him by terminating his contract while he was on sabbatical without telling him, and owes him $150m in unpaid royalties.

As you may recall, Benzies left Rockstar this past January, though the company said he went on sabbatical beginning 1st September 2014.

"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," said Christopher Bakes, a partner at Benzies' legal team Locke Lord LLP in a statement on the matter.

The lawsuit states that Benzies had an identical contract to that of Rockstar co-founders Sam and Dan Houser. But Benzies suggests the Houser brothers betrayed him in what amounts to a "lengthy deception."

"Mr. Benzies' removal after years of receiving compensation identical to the Housers was the product of what turned out to be a lengthy deception by Sam Houser," Bakes said. "The complaint describes Sam Houser's mounting resentments after many years of high praise."

According to the lawsuit, obtained by Eurogamer, Sam Houser sent Benzies emails saying such phrases as "I've got your back," "so proud to be partners with you," "Partners for real!!" and "Together Forever!" Once Houser had given Benzies a false sense of security, he allegedly pulled the rug out from under him when on sabbatical.

Worse, Benzies has accused Rockstar of lying about his sabbatical when the company said Benzies had "decided not to return to work for the company," upon his departure in January. Benzies said that's flat out not true and that he attempted to go back to work on 1st April 2015 only to find that his key to the building had been deactivated.

"After being let inside by building security, Mr. Benzies was then ordered to leave by the Rockstar North office manager without reason," Bakes said of this humiliating incident.

Benzies also claimed that the sabbatical wasn't even his idea, but his partners encouraged him to go on walkabout. "The Defendants flew Mr. Benzies to New York and encouraged him to take a six-month sabbatical to recharge his batteries," the lawsuit explained.

That explains why Benzies felt deceived, but why $150m? According to the lawsuit, Benzies discovered that while on sabbatical the Housers had allocated at least $93m in profit-sharing payments to themselves, with another $523m in profits still unaccounted for. "During that period, Mr. Benzies did not receive a single dollar in profit-sharing payments, a significant and dramatic departure from the former practice of profit-sharing equality among the three 'Rockstar Principals'" the suit claimed.

We've contacted Take-Two about this lawsuit and will update should the company respond.