Leslie Benzies quits Grand Theft Auto maker Rockstar Games

The industry in Scotland is best-known for Rockstar North's bestselling Grand Theft Auto series and 4J Studio's console versions of Minecraft. Picture: Jane Barlow
The industry in Scotland is best-known for Rockstar North's bestselling Grand Theft Auto series and 4J Studio's console versions of Minecraft. Picture: Jane Barlow
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Leslie Benzies has quit as president of the Edinburgh-based creator of video game franchise Grand Theft Auto (GTA).

The Aberdeen-born producer began his career with Rockstar North in 1996, when the firm – then based in Dundee – was still called DMA Design and best known for its Lemmings puzzle game.

Leslie Benzies received an honorary doctorate from Robert Gordon University last year

Leslie Benzies received an honorary doctorate from Robert Gordon University last year

Benzies, who last year received an honorary doctorate in design from Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University, took a sabbatical from Rockstar North in September 2014 – a year after GTA V was released – and has decided not to return to the business, which is now located on Edinburgh’s Holyrood Road.

READ MORE: What next for Grand Theft Auto – Scotland’s biggest digital export?

In a statement, New York-headquartered Rockstar Games said: “We can confirm that Leslie Benzies went on sabbatical on September 1, 2014 and has decided not to return to work for the company. We are very grateful for Leslie’s contributions to Rockstar over the last 15 years as we worked together to make some amazing games.”

“Leslie helped us build an incredible team that will continue to create great experiences for our fans. Leslie 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.”

In 2014, it emerged that Benzies had bought Edinburgh’s A-listed St Stephen’s Church in a deal believed to be worth more than £500,000. A spokesman said at the time that the Stockbridge resident recognised the building’s “importance to the community”.

The same year saw Benzies inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame, alongside Dan and Sam Houser, the brothers who co-founded Rockstar Games. The first inductee to the Hall of Fame, in 1998, was Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of the hugely popular Mario and Zelda games.

GTA V was hailed as the fastest-selling entertainment product in history, racking up sales worth $1 billion (£696 million) within three days of its release in September 2013.

READ MORE: Grand Theft Auto V: Scottish game conquering world

Away from video games, Benzies devotes much of his free time to the Benzies Foundation, a charitable organisation that aims to promote health and fitness among Scottish communities.

Rockstar North is now being led by studio veterans Aaron Garbut and Rob Nelson.