Wade Callender, the former general counsel of “Borderlands” developer Gearbox Software, is suing the company and its CEO, Randy Pitchford. In a court petition full of sensational allegations, he accuses Pitchford of, among other things, negotiating a secret $12 million executive bonus with publisher Take-Two Interactive.
In a lengthy email to Variety, Gearbox denied the claims and addressed some of the more lurid allegations.
Callender first met Pitchford in the 1980s and the two bonded over a shared love for video games, according to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by Variety. He served as general counsel at Gearbox from 2010 through August 2018 and owns a 3% stake in the studio. His relationship with Pitchford has soured in recent years, though, especially after Gearbox filed a lawsuit against him in November. The suit claims he borrowed money from the studio for a home loan and tuition that he never paid back in full, according to Kotaku. It also alleges he “abused the privilege of credit card access by charging unapproved, wholly personal expenses, including family vacations, gun club memberships and firearms accessories, and trying to get six-pack abs.”
Now, in his own lawsuit, Callender accuses Pitchford of fraud, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty. He says the Gearbox CEO is a “manipulative and morally bankrupt CEO who shamefully exploited his oldest friend.” He also claims Pitchford secretly saddled Gearbox employees with the burden of repaying a private, personal $12 million “bonus” from Take-Two. Pitchford insisted on keeping the deal secret, the lawsuit states, and the money was allegedly rerouted to his private company called Pitchford Entertainment Media Magic.
“Because Pitchford agreed to have his private ‘bonuses’ counted as advances upon the royalties owed to Gearbox employees, those employees — and their families — won’t receive any of their accrued royalty or ‘profit’ shares until work repays Randy’s bonuses to Take-Two Interactive,” the lawsuit says. “This is particularly tragic exploitation, because these millions are being siphoned to Randy Pitchford’s personal accounts instead of funding the development of ‘Borderlands.'”
The suit also claims Callender recently helped Pitchford after his personal assistant allegedly stole millions from him and his wife. The lawyer helped recover nearly $750,000 in cash and facilitated a civil judgement against the accused embezzler totaling more than $2 million, but he said Pitchford actively concealed his involvement when retelling the story to news outlets in October.
Even worse, Callender’s lawsuit claims Pitchford left a USB drive at a Texas Medieval Times restaurant in 2014 containing sensitive Gearbox corporate materials and a personal collection of underage pornography. The suit also accuses him of siphoning Gearbox profits to fund so-called “Peacock Parties” at his home, where adult men would allegedly expose themselves to minors to Pitchford’s amusement.
Pitchford corroborated some details of the USB story on an episode of The Piff Pod in December, according to Ars Technica. During the podcast, he reportedly admitted to leaving a flash drive at a Medieval Times. It apparently contained some “cam girl” pornography. Pitchford claimed he was “a consumer of this content” and that he was studying it to figure out how the host faked the act of female ejaculation.
“I realized, this is not a sex worker,” Pitchford said on the show. “This is a fucking magician.” (Pitchford is apparently a fan of magicians and owns the magic-centric Genii Magazine.)
“Some kid, an employee of Medieval Times, discovered this memory stick, took it home … and discovered secrets of my company and future games in development, and also discovered the pornography,” he said. “It was ‘barely legal’ porn. This girl’s handle was ‘Only 18.'”
The employee apparently returned the USB in exchange for “swag” and video games. Pitchford said it arrived at the studio while he was on vacation, so his executive assistant checked its contents. “Before I know it, I think the entire office looked at it. And there was one piece of content on here,” he said. “And it never occurred to any of them that the reason why there was just that single porno was because of the magic trick, not because of [pause] I don’t know whatever the fuck they thought.”
Variety has reached out to Gearbox Software for comment, but it did not immediately respond.