THE men who created the global gaming franchise Grand Theft Auto know there are easier ways to make money than stealing cars.
Edinburgh-based firm Rockstar North has not paid corporation tax for ten years, while claiming £42million in Government subsidies.
Rockstar North, owned by British brothers Dan and Sam Houser, hasn’t paid corporation tax in ten years[/caption]
Though their megabucks game franchise lets players engage in extreme violence, drink-driving and all manner of other illegal activities, it was granted tax relief for being of “cultural” benefit to the country.
Brothers Dan and Sam Houser, Rockstar’s secretive owners, are worth an estimated £105million.
The fifth instalment of GTA has racked up global sales of more than £4.8BILLION, while its predecessor was the fastest-selling entertainment product ever at the time of its release in 2008.
The Housers now preside over an empire that includes hundreds of staff across London, Leeds, Edinburgh, Canada, the US and India.
Grand Theft Auto V was released six years ago and is one of the top-selling games in history.
WILLY WONKA-STYLE OFFICES
Last week the London-born pair figured out another way to squeeze more profit from their creation.
A new feature lets players gamble real money in GTA’s online casinos.
Having relocated to the US, the Housers own several major properties on either side of the Atlantic.
Rockstar’s offices have been likened to Willy Wonka’s factory, though there is nothing sweet about the behaviour there.
According to company insiders, staff routinely wind down at strip clubs while huge sums are handed out to the winners of junk food-eating competitions.
The Housers’ background is very different to the criminal underworld their games depict with such relish.
Their father, Walter, was a successful lawyer and a co-owner of the famous Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in Soho, central London.
Their mother, Geraldine Moffat, is a retired actress best known for seducing Michael Caine’s character in 1971 movie Get Carter.
They were schooled at St Paul’s in West London, where fees now approach £9,000 a TERM. Sam, 48, studied there alongside former Chancellor George Osborne.
While Dan, 45, went to Christchurch College, Oxford, Sam joined record label BMG, where he worked on the launch of the Spice Girls.
He later moved to the company’s gaming division before striking out on his own. Sam was played by Daniel Radcliffe in a 2015 BBC drama called The Gamechangers.
He is considered the business brains behind the operation. While at BMG, he worked on Grand Theft Auto and bought the game’s rights when he founded Rockstar with his brother in December 1998.
Sam is said to have fostered a no-holds-barred working environment where Rockstar’s staff toil long into the night.
In his book Jacked: The Outlaw Story Of Grand Theft Auto, author David Kushner describes the brothers putting up a £2,000 prize for cheese ball-eating contests. Staff were urged to eat until they were sick, then drink tequila to cleanse their palate.
Riotous parties with models and Manhattan’s beautiful people on hand are reportedly commonplace.
Stars of the screen including Samuel L Jackson, Peter Fonda and James Woods have been hired as voice actors for the GTA games, although “big-name egos” are being phased out since the late Burt Reynolds threatened to punch Dan during a recording session because he was asked to re-record a line of dialogue.
HORRENDOUS WORKING CONDITIONS
Sam admits working at the company is “obscenely hard” and joked that the brothers have been having a “mid-life crisis from about 12 years old”.
The businessman sports wild hair and a beard, cycling every day into Rockstar’s offices in the trendy SoHo borough of New York.
Dan, who comes up with the storylines for Rockstar, takes his German-shepherd dog Iggy into work and has been accused of swearing viciously at staff.
His former assistant Gillian Telling told the Wall Street Journal that he called her a “whore” and a “c***” when she brought him the wrong kind of bagel.
On another occasion, the wives and girlfriends of Rockstar employees published an open letter highlighting what they called the “horrendous” and “unacceptable” working conditions.
When the Housers do get home from work, they find themselves in plush surroundings.
The main residence of Dan and his 36-year-old American wife Krystyna is a £15million, 9,000 sq ft Brooklyn house where the writer Truman Capote once lived.
They also have two rural summer retreats, and when Dan returns to Britain he pops into his £3.5million house in Richmond, South West London, a stone’s throw from Sam’s £2.5million mansion in Twickenham.
Sam is married to Anouchka Benson, the daughter of former Daily Mail journalist Ross Benson. They have two children together.
They also share an £8million house in Brooklyn, New York, and at weekends drive up to their £2million, 212-acre country estate in the Catskill Mountains.
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George Turner of TaxWatch, which uncovered the avoidance, said: “It is outrageous that the UK taxpayer is being asked to shell out tens of millions of pounds in subsidy to the developers of Grand Theft Auto.
“This is a drive-by assault on the British taxpayer and corporate welfare scrounging at its very worst.”
Nobody from Rockstar was available for comment last night.
The Houser brothers (both on the right) are worth an estimated £105million and the pair own several major properties on either side of the Atlantic[/caption]
Rockstar is behind the global gaming sensation Grand Theft Auto which lets players engage in extreme violence, drink-driving and other illegal activities[/caption]
Rockstar North was granted £42m in tax relief for being of ‘cultural’ benefit to the country[/caption]
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