Gearbox CEO In Legal Battle Over Multi-Million Bonus With Former Lawyer
Randy Pitchford, the CEO of Gearbox - the studio behind the Borderlands series, Aliens: Colonial Marines and Battleborn - has been accused of taking a secret $12 million bonus from Borderlands publisher Take-Two Interactive.
The accusation comes from Wade Callender, Gearbox's lawyer for eight years spanning 2010 to 2018. Callender sued Pitchford on 21 December, for a breach of legal duty to the company. His legal move comes in response to Gearbox suing its ex-employee (and Pitchford's friend of over 40 years, before this at least), claiming that Callender received funds from the studio for personal legal fees and never paid them back.
Sounds messy, and it only gets messier. Callender has called Pitchford "a manipulative and morally bankrupt CEO" who exploited him, and their friendship. He says that Pitchford also "exploited Gearbox employees and property" for private gain.
Gearbox sued Callender before he counter-sued, stating that he'd borrowed money for tuition fees and home improvement costs, that were not paid back in full. Gearbox added that Callender "abused the privilege of credit card access by charging unapproved personal expenses, including family vacations, gun club memberships and firearms accessories, and trying to get six-pack ab".
Keeping up? Gearbox has, naturally, dismissed the accusations towards its CEO. "The allegations made by a disgruntled former employee are absurd, with no basis in reality or law," reads a statement made to Kotaku. "We look forward to addressing this meritless lawsuit in court, and have no further comment at this time."
Callender's lawsuit describes the bonus Pitchford allegedly receives as a "personal, secretive 'Executive Bonus' to be paid to Pitchford directly," advanced against the profits of the Borderlands series. "This is tragic exploitation," reads the lawsuit, "because these millions are being syphoned to Pitchford's personal accounts, instead of funding the development of Borderlands."
And, oh, does it get worse. Callender also claims that, in 2014, he gained access to a USB drive belonging to Pitchford, containing several sensitive company documents, and others concerning partners including SEGA, Sony and Microsoft. But the drive also contained, says Callender, what appeared to be "underage pornography".
Pitchford took to Twitter to deny the allegations:
The attacks made by my former friend and colleague have no basis in reality or law. He is simply trying to shake me down for money. We will win, but because lawsuits are pending I can't comment as much as I'd like. I am shocked by his lies. Thanks for your love and support.- Randy Pitchford (@DuvalMagic) January 11, 2019
Elaborating on previous comments on the matter, a Gearbox spokesperson reached out to Kotaku with an updated statement (edited for length):
"Gearbox will be filing a grievance with the State Bar of Texas against our former general counsel Wade for disciplinary proceedings for filing a lawsuit that includes accusations that he knows to be untrue. The lawyer's rules of professional conduct expressly prohibit the filing of documents that are knowingly false... Wade is engaged in a shakedown, and he's clearly using deceit and lies to try to cause damage by promoting a narrative that he knows is false."
However this works its way out, we're pretty sure that Pitchford and Wade are firmly off each other's Christmas Card lists.
Featured Image Credit: Gearbox Software/2K Games