After being sued by one of its founders and accused of fraud, ZA/UM now says the lead writer behind The hit RPG of 2019, Disco ElysiumHe was fired for professional misconduct, including gender discrimination and verbal abuse of co-workers. It is the latest development in Chaotic epic About the independent studio behind one of the most innovative combo games of the past decade.
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It all started last month when Martin Loeja, co-founder of the now-defunct Estonian arts group ZA/UM, revealed that members Robert Corvettes, Alexander Rostov and Helen Hindberry no longer work at the game studio of the same name responsible for development. The critically acclaimed Disco Elysium. Luiga accused the studio’s business leaders of firing the designs, and questioned what that meant for a potential game sequel.
Corvettes—Who filed a lawsuit in late OctoberRostov now accuses two ZA/UM businessmen, CEO Ilmar Kompus and executive producer Tõnis Haavel, of committing fraud to take over the holding company that owns the studio.
“We have now learned that Tütreke OÜ must have fraudulently obtained control of Zaum Studio OÜ,” Written in a medium publication. “We believe that the money that Tütreke OÜ used to purchase the majority stake was illegally taken from Zaum Studio OÜ itself, money belonging to the studio and all shareholders but used for one benefit. The money that should have gone towards making the sequel.”
ZA/UM now accuses Kurvitz of promoting a toxic work environment and of trying to illegally sell the company’s intellectual property.
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“The rumors that our decision to terminate the contracts of these individuals was taken for financial gain are completely unfounded and does not reflect the facts in any way,” the studio wrote. Statement submitted to GamesIndustry.biz. “It was a decision that had to be made for the welfare of the group.”
Coming back and forth after a day Report in an Estonian newspaper Eesti Ekspress It was suggested that Havel was secretly responsible for the studio’s money chains and decision-making at the highest level. He denied this, and Elmar Combos, CEO of ZA/UM, told Korvitz that he was fired not because of financial disagreements, but because of refusing to provide satisfactory work and for treating colleagues poorly. Combus went on to specifically accuse Corvettes of underestimating women in the past, and said that once the company learned, it decided to take action.
“While active litigation limits what we can share publicly, we believe additional information will provide a more accurate picture as our former employees have neglected to state key facts to reporters, on blogs and in other public platforms,” the studio explained in a statement to GamesIndustry.biz. And she continued:
For clarity and accuracy, we share the reasons for the justified dismissals of some former ZA/UM Studio team members:
- It is limited to not sharing in their responsibilities and their work—including not working at all for about two years while the studio is still getting paid—and forcing colleagues to make up for their lack of effort.
- Create a toxic work environment that goes against ZA/UM culture and team productivity.
- Misconduct in dealing with other colleagues, including verbal abuse and gender discrimination.
- Attempts to illegally sell the intellectual property of other game companies ZA/UM with the aim of undermining the rest of the team.
When asked before KotakuA ZA/UM spokesperson declined to go into details beyond its original statement, including whether the allegations also apply to Rostov as well as Helen Hindberry, another precedent. Disco Elysium The writer who reportedly forced him out of the studio. Rostov and Hindbury could not be reached for comment. Korvitz did not respond immediately.
according to Eesti EkspressZA/UM was affected by disagreements between entrepreneurs and creators within the studio, and one source described the sharp split into GamesIndustry.biz Like “The CEO is scheming on the one hand, and the toxic author on the other.” In addition, both of Eesti Ekspress Kurvitz and Rostov’s Medium report paints a complex picture of intertwined companies, investment vehicles with ZA/UM, and the future of game development caught in the crossfire.
Both sides are now heading to court. In the meantime, Kotaku He understands that the 100-person studio is busy trying to shop around for his next project for outside funding.
Complete data from ZA / UM, Kurvtiz and Rostov are reproduced below.
ZA/UM Studio today issued a statement addressing recent team expulsions that have sparked litigation and media coverage: Our recent expulsion of a few members of the ZA/UM Studio team has resulted in legal filings and inaccurate news coverage. While we are confident that ZA/UM will prevail in court once all the facts are heard, we believe it is necessary to address groundless allegations and lies, just to defend ZA/UM’s right and protect our employees.
“While active litigation limits what we can share publicly, we believe additional information will provide a more accurate picture given that our former employees have neglected to state key facts to journalists, on blogs and in other public platforms. For clarity and accuracy, we share the reasons for justified dismissals of some members of the ZA team. /UM Studio Ex:
● Limiting themselves to not sharing their responsibilities and their work – including not working at all for about two years while the studio is still getting paid – and forcing colleagues to make up for their lack of effort.
● Create a toxic work environment that goes against ZA/UM culture and team productivity.
● Misconduct in dealing with other colleagues, including verbal abuse and gender discrimination.
● Attempts to illegally sell the intellectual property of other game companies ZA / UM with the aim of undermining the rest of the team.
“ZA/UM cannot and will not tolerate egregious misconduct, even from individuals who, along with the broader team, have contributed to a game of which we are exceptionally proud and which continues to capture imaginations around the world. In addition to creativity and innovation, ZA/UM UM also stands for professionalism, kindness, decency and fairness, which is what we expect from all of our employees.It would be short-sighted to accept anything less, because we need team players for a highly collaborative process that leads to game creation.
“The rumors that our decision to terminate the contracts of these individuals was taken for financial gain are absolutely baseless and in no way reflective of the facts. It was a decision that had to be taken for the welfare of the group. Furthermore, ZA/UM denies any allegations of financial wrongdoing. or fraud being brought against us.The vast majority of Disco Elysium’s profits have been invested in the studio in order to fund our next projects, which are currently in development.
“We will not let the actions and comments of a few voices distract from the important work in the studio. ZA/UM has tripled in size from last year to nearly 100 employees while retaining the vast majority of the team that worked on Disco Elysium. We have built an enthusiastic and creative team of Incredible talent who continues to combine storytelling, art and technology in our efforts to elevate video games and redefine genres.We are passionate about doing this with love and sparkle in our hearts and minds.We have so much to show you.
Corvettes and Rostov:
We are Robert Corvettes and Alexander Rostov – Game Director and Artistic Director at Disco Elysium. Our stake in the game is in the form of minority stakes in an Estonian company called Zaum Studio OÜ, which owns everything related to the game. The majority of the shares of this company were initially owned by Margus Linnamäe, an Estonian businessman and investor who provided the initial capital. In 2021, Linnamäe was acquired by another minority shareholder, the Estonian company Tütreke OÜ. Tütreke OÜ is a car for two Estonian businessmen – Ilmar Kompus and Tõnis Haavel.
Our rights as minority shareholders are limited. As long as Linnamäe remained the majority shareholder, we were confident that the company’s financial statements were sound and that all shareholders were treated equally. The same cannot be said for Kompus and Haavel. Once they became majority shareholders, we were quickly removed from day-to-day operations, our business was terminated and our access to company information was closed. Our expulsion came weeks after we started asking for documents and financial data, which are still withheld from us.
We have now learned that Tütreke OÜ must have fraudulently obtained control of Zaum Studio OÜ. We believe that the money used by Tütreke OÜ to purchase the majority stake was illegally taken from Zaum Studio OÜ itself, money belonging to the studio and all shareholders but used for the benefit of one. The money that should have gone towards making the sequel. We believe that these acts – which in our opinion, and in our lawyer’s view, amount to criminal offenses punishable by up to three years in prison – were committed by Elmar Combos and Tonis Havel with the support of Kore Kinder, another minority shareholder. This is not surprising given that Tonis Havel, who we believe is the leader of the group, was convicted of defrauding investors on a different matter in 2007[[[[https://www.riigiteataja.ee/kohtulahendid/fail.html?fid=303963621].
We are now reviewing our legal options. Both civil cases and criminal charges are on the table – in Estonia and the UK.
Needless to say, it was a very tough time for us. After five years of hard work, we launched Disco Elysium, a game loved by millions. As a bonus, we were briefly fired and cut off from our life’s work – the realm of Elysium. The company we set up has been looted, while our own profits are not even enough to cover legal fees.
So far, we have refrained from speaking publicly. This was entirely voluntary, given the people still working at ZA/UM – and for our mental health. But given the severity of our suspicions — and the severity of the evidence we have — we think it’s time for people to know what happened at the company.
We remain forever grateful to all fans of Disco Elysium, who have given us invaluable moral support. We still believe in games, we still believe in ourselves – and we still believe in you. Millions of RPG fans have proven that games like Disco Elysium have a huge following. This is really cool. Nobody can take that from us.
We also believe in what Harrier du Bois calls “the law.” It’s not perfect, but it exists to protect those who create from those who take. And it will be.
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