Court orders THQ to stop poaching Ubisoft talent

According to French website Rue Frontenac, Ubisoft has been granted an injunction order against THQ from the Superior Court of Quebec in order to protect itself from talent being poached out from under contractual obligations...

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According to French website Rue Frontenac, Ubisoft has been granted an injunction order against THQ from the Superior Court of Quebec forcing the company to comply with the "non-solicit clause" included in Ubisoft Montreal's work contracts. In short, the injunction will halt poaching of talent from Ubisoft's Montreal studio, Game Informer confirmed with Ubisoft.

Last year, THQ revealed it would open a Montreal studio to help develop a number of titles under its "Core Games" banner. As part of the studio's introduction to the world, THQ revealed it would hire former Ubisoft producer Patrice Désilets to lead the new studio.

According to the Rue Frontenac report, when Désilets abruptly walked away from Ubisoft Montreal last May, he had earned $1.3 million dollars (CND) over the last three years of his employment and left $600,000 in future bonuses on the table.

Though THQ has already made a point to name Désilets the head-honcho at its new Montreal studio, Désilets will not be eligible to work for the company until his non-compete clause with Ubisoft expires this May (one year following his exit from Ubisoft).

During the same period THQ announced its new studio, Assassin's Creed artistic director Alex Drouin, production manager Mark Besner, and associate producer Jean-Francois Boivin resigned at Ubisoft, citing various reasons.

In early January--following THQ's logo refresh--THQ Core Games boss Danny Bilson revealed his company had hired three additional employees, formerly of Ubisoft's talent pool.

According to an interview with Joystiq, Bilson noted that the three new hires were at the behest of Désilets, who said he needed to add to his team at THQ Montreal. Bilson told Joystiq: "I don't think I can talk about the other three people we've already contracted because I wouldn't… I just know Patrice said, 'I need these three guys.' And I said 'Okay! Whatever you need!'" he said. "We put all of them on retention and got them started on their non-compete [clauses]. I kind of know what their roles are, but they were the most important people to Patrice. All three of them are Ubi."

The report notes that Désilets, Besner, Drouin, and Boivin share season tickets at the Bell Centre (where the Montreal Canadiens play), which caught the attention Ubisoft, coupled with the abrupt nature of their respective exits.

It would appear that Bilson's admission that Désilets was involved in the recruitment process of former Ubisoft employees puts the former Assassin's Creed producer in breach of his ongoing non-compete clause.

Ubisoft reportedly presented its case to Judge Marc de Wever and was granted an injunction against both THQ and Désilets in late January; however, Ubisoft states that another employee--Margherita Seconnino--was approached by former employee Adolfo Gomez-Urda to meet with the THQ localization department. According to the report, Seconnino was offered a salary raise bump upwards of 60 per cent.

The newest injunction awarded to Ubisoft adds Gomez-Urda to the list alongside THQ and Désilets to help "protect Ubisoft Montreal in a breach of contract situation, and to defend the long-term financial and creative health of the studio," according to Ubisoft's statement to Game Informer.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    March 30, 2011 7:00 PM

    Comment on Court orders THQ to stop poaching Ubisoft talent, by Xav de Matos.

    • reply
      March 30, 2011 7:07 PM

      If THQ can offer them more money/more responsibilities what's the big deal? Shouldn't it be in the Ubisoft contract to prevent moves like this if it is an issue?

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        March 30, 2011 7:24 PM

        It's known as tortious interference. A person/company cannot knowingly and intentionally interfere in another entity's contractual relationships, particuarly when dealing with contracts that contain non-compete clauses. Doing so makes said person/company liable for tortious interference and the employee who jumped ship liable for breach of contract.

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          March 30, 2011 7:59 PM

          Only if they go to work before the signed time period is up. In the case of the above mentioned, once the 1 year is up in May, he should be fine.

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            March 30, 2011 11:01 PM

            It might count though if you suggest to the competing company who else you should offer jobs to.

        • foo
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          March 31, 2011 11:08 AM

          Yeah, when Foxnews took me from Hostway, contracts between the two had to be completely rewritten to include my name, employee number, etc. Basically saying no poaching employees, with the exception of foo on this date, and all that.

          Employee poaching between two companies that already have standing contracts is a pretty big deal

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        March 30, 2011 10:57 PM

        I think the deal is these guys have a contract that says that they get a bunch of money in the form of bonuses over X amount of years but they CANT go to someplace where they compete with Ubi if they want to keep the money. That is the contract. If they were just getting a sallary and a random bonus with no contract they could do as they please as long as the local laws don't get in the way.

        That is my understanding.

        Also it appears THQ has money to spend on people they think are important.

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      March 30, 2011 7:07 PM

      So wait... they aren't allowed to offer a better paid job to employees of another company? Isn't that almost the same as forcing the workers at ubisoft to remain employed at ubisoft and unable to change jobs?

      Maybe ubisoft should offer better pay and/or conditions to stop THQ from "stealing" their workforce.

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        March 30, 2011 7:15 PM

        I don't know what employment law in Quebec is like, or their contracts (and legality of the contracts), but I agree, this is scary. This kind of thing happens in other fields, but obviously game developers would consider employee talent to be very valuable.

        It's strange, because Desilets was riding out his non-compete, and it appears that THQ had the non-competes of the other employees in mind when they were hired, but obviously Ubisoft got their legal team to push for this injunction.

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      March 30, 2011 7:18 PM

      Honestly, I don't understand how THQ is to blame. I think this is the employees' fault for infringing on the rights of a corporation. They should be sued.

    • reply
      March 30, 2011 7:23 PM

      Welcome to the current game industry! Pretty amazing how many new Canadian game companies are springing up, something about taxes there making it an attractive place?

      • reply
        March 30, 2011 7:27 PM

        That and you have all kind of grants and funding provided by the government ranging from small projects like Swords & Swocery EP to $226 million grants for Ubisoft Toronto.

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          March 30, 2011 7:28 PM

          very cool...

        • reply
          March 30, 2011 7:31 PM

          That's $226 million over the course of ten years.

          • reply
            March 30, 2011 7:33 PM

            and i'm pretty sure it wasn't a grant, but in the form of tax breaks

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              March 30, 2011 8:10 PM

              That's still $22.6 million per year Ubisoft doesn't have to pay.

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                March 30, 2011 8:17 PM

                i guess the better option is to have them not open the studio at all.

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      March 30, 2011 7:27 PM

      This is like watching two special ed kids fight.

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      March 30, 2011 8:02 PM

      I feel that intellectual rights should be protected, but that a person's skills and talents should be able to go wherever they want, whenever they want, unless it applies to national security (and Assassins Creed does not, my friends).

      • reply
        March 31, 2011 3:30 AM

        Hey.. maybe you are playing Assassins Creed 2571 right now. DID YOU THINK ABOUT THAT?

    • reply
      March 30, 2011 8:03 PM

      That's the free market. Don't like it? Fuck off back to mother russia you goddamn commie fucks.

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      March 30, 2011 8:54 PM

      a pay bump of 60%? yeah I wouldn't feel like hanging around too long either

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      March 30, 2011 9:31 PM

      Yeah, this is pretty much bullshit.

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      March 30, 2011 9:36 PM

      That's sad.

    • reply
      March 30, 2011 9:42 PM

      Welcome to a world where judges are no better than hired mercenaries. Whoever pays the most get the verdict that they want. Did i say that out loud?

      I love this topic so much that I posted another comment. :D

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      March 30, 2011 10:42 PM

      they pulled the same shit when EA Montreal opened up too

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      March 30, 2011 10:43 PM

      what the fuck? That is weird. Now the guys who might want better pay and responsibility can't move to a competitor

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      March 30, 2011 11:21 PM

      Actually, this is pretty simple. The problem is with a "non-solicitation" clause, not the non-compete. The new head of THQ appears to have solicited employees from Ubisoft in violation of his non-solicitation clause. Presumably, that clause is at least as long as the non-compete clause, which is not up yet.

      If someone else were to poach these employees, it would not have been a problem. Perhaps the head at THQ was trying to play the fine line: "Oh, it's not *me* who solicited them, but someone else at THQ."

      Dunno.

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      March 31, 2011 3:21 AM

      This is normal and healthy business practices. It happens in almost every industry. If someone offer's me more money im going to take it. Ubisoft needs to either match what THQ is offering if they dont want them to leave or grow a pair.

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        March 31, 2011 4:31 AM

        You're stating the obvious and missing the facts.

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        March 31, 2011 11:36 AM

        and it's also why non-compete clauses were invented

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      March 31, 2011 6:27 PM

      So I wonder when Killer's Mantra: Sisterhood will be announced by THQ. Perhaps Wraith Recon, Splinter Group, and Rainbow Seven are coming soon after. Not long after, I imagine Long Cry won't be far behind.