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Leslie Benzies, one of the driving forces behind GTA, has left Rockstar

Leslie Benzies with shades

Rockstar North President Leslie Benzies, a producer on every Grand Theft Auto game since GTA 3 as well as Red Dead Redemption, LA Noire, and Max Payne 3, has left the studio. His departure was confirmed today in a statement sent to Kotaku, in which Rockstar said Benzies had been on an extended sabbatical and elected not to return.

“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,” the statement says. “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.”

Benzies joined the studio in 1998, when it was still known as DMA Design, and worked as the lead programmer on the Nintendo 64/PlayStation release Space Station Silicon Valley. His name may not be as immediately recognizable as those of founders Sam and Dan Houser, but he was instrumental in the creation of Grand Theft Auto 3, the game that launched the series as we now know it, and for seeing it grow into its subsequent world-beating success as the president of Rockstar North. In 2005, he and Sam Houser were awarded a BAFTA Special Award for Games for their contribution to the videogame industry; in 2014, he, along with Dan and Sam Houser, were inducted in the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame.

According to the Kotaku report, Rockstar North is now headed up by Aaron Garbut and Rob Nelson, who most recently shared art direction duties on Grand Theft Auto V.