After GTA 5 Exec Leaves, Take-Two Boss "Highly Confident" in Franchise's Future

"I have all the respect in the world for Leslie."

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During a post-earnings briefing today, Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick was asked to provide some additional color regarding the departure of Leslie Benzies, the longtime studio head of Grand Theft Auto V developer Rockstar North. Zelnick confirmed that Benzies went on sabbatical in September 2014 and decided not to return to work. He also praised Benzies' contributions to the Grand Theft Auto series and said he is "highly confident" the GTA franchise will move forward without issue.

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"We're really proud of the team approach that we have here at our company--and we have a very broad and deep team," Zelnick said. "We're so proud of the deep and broad pool of creative talent. It's our job to move ahead day and night without ever missing a beat. And that's what we're doing."

Zelnick's comments came in response to a question specifically regarding what Benzies' departure means, if anything, with regards to Rockstar Games founders Sam and Dan Houser. Zelnick didn't mention them by name, but instead provided a high-level overview of the contractual relationships it has with developers across its studios.

"In terms of our colleagues here at every level, we enjoy longstanding relationships with all the people who make this organization tick," he said. "We aim to be the best place in the business to work at. We are imperfect, of course, and I'm especially imperfect. But our track record speaks for itself.

"We have extraordinarily long-term relationships [with our employees] and I'm highly confident they will continue."

Zelnick was also asked if he knew anything about Benzies' post-Rockstar plans and if he was worried that Benzies might try to draw out talent from Rockstar. Zelnick dodged this question.

"I have all the respect in the world for Leslie and for everyone else here, current and former colleagues," he said. "Of course, I wish him all the best. I can't comment on his plans."

Benzies, a Scotland native, has lived in Edinburgh for more than a decade, where Rockstar North has developed every Grand Theft Auto game since Grand Theft Auto III. In 2014, Benzies bought a church in Edinburgh to save it for the community.

Taking over for Benzies in Rockstar North management roles are 19-year Rockstar veteran Aaron Garbut and Rob Nelson.

In October 2013, just a few weeks after GTA V originally launched, Benzies said Rockstar has "some ideas" for Grand Theft Auto VI.

Benzies, along with Sam and Dan Houser, were inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts & Science's Hall of Fame in 2014.

In other GTA news, GTA V has now shipped an astonishing 60 million copies.

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