Fresh details of the legal battle between Disco Elyisum creatives and their former bosses have emerged, as part of a hearing held in an Estonian court.
To recap on the story so far: a trio of high profile staff behind the first Disco Elysium game were fired from developer ZA/UM following the company’s takeover by Estonian businessmen Ilmar Kompus, who is now ZA/UM’s boss and controlling shareholder, and Tõnis Haavel who was previously convicted of investment fraud.
On the one side, some of the staff – including Disco Elysium game director Robert Kurvitz and art director Aleksander Rostov – have previously alleged that Kompus and Haavel’s takeover was fraudulent, and that they were booted out when trying to discover more. On the other, Kompus and Haavel have claimed the firings were due to some staff creating a “toxic environment” – and they were allegedly planning to depart the studio anyway to try and build a Disco Elysium sequel elsewhere.
A key part of the current legal wranglings now appears to rest on the ownership of some sketches – the first designs for a potential Disco Elysium 2 – as reported by the Estonian Eskpress newspaper (via PC Gamer).
These drawings – apparently of a man in a scarf – were reportedly sold for just £1 to a shell company owned by ZA/UM’s new Estonian management, who then sold them back to ZA/UM as part of a €4.8m deal for control of the company. This is the alleged incident which Kurvitz and Rostov have in the past claimed to be fraudulent.
The suggestion is that Kompus and Haavel had intended this deal to be a stepping stone to them selling the company on to a tech giant, with Microsoft and Tencent in the frame. But the deal did not materialise, and employees began to ask questions on what was happening in the interim.
Last month, in an Estonian court, Disco Elysium’s former executive producer and marketing manager Kaur Kender entered the fray. Kender has also been fired from ZA/UM, allegedly also for trying to ask questions of its new management.
Kender claims that as a partner in ZA/UM, his firing left him without his share of the company – worth €1m. Kender argued successfully that the court should seize the controlling stake of ZA/UM owned by Kompus to avoid it being sold on and its value being lost overseas.
As for Haavel, Kender claims he has also quietly become involved in a ZA/UM subsidiary which owns Disco Elysium’s intellectual property rights, while also being €11.2m in debt. This debt stems from Haavel’s past conviction for investment fraud.
When contacted, both Kompus and Haavel denied knowledge of the lawsuit. ZA/UM is yet to comment.
Eurogamer has contacted ZA/UM itself and will update when there’s any further development.