Disco Elysium – ZA/UM Studio Poised to Enter a Legal Battle

Even though we may never get a worthy sequel to Disco Elysium, in a way, it’s currently happening right before our eyes, as following the recent statement from one of ZA/UM Studio’s founders Martin Luiga, the setting’s original creators are now looking to sue the fraudsters who have apparently swindled them out of their life’s work.

To that extent, we now have this Medium post from Robert Kurvitz and Aleksander Rostov alleging some seriously fraudulent actions from certain ZA/UM shareholders, and this GamesIndustry.biz article citing an Estonian interview with ZA/UM’s current CEO where he in turn alleges all sorts of misconduct on the part of the abovementioned individuals.

Here’s the former:

We are Robert Kurvitz and Aleksander Rostov — the game director and art director of Disco Elysium. Our stake in the game exists in the form of minority shareholdings in an Estonian company called Zaum Studio OÜ, which owns everything related to the game. The majority of this company’s shares were initially held by Margus Linnamäe, an Estonian businessman and investor who provided the initial capital. In 2021, Linnamäe was bought out by another minority shareholder, an Estonian company Tütreke OÜ. Tütreke OÜ is a vehicle for two Estonian businessmen — Ilmar Kompus and Tõnis Haavel.

As minority shareholders our rights are limited. As long as Linnamäe remained the majority shareholder, we were confident that the company’s financials were in order and that all shareholders were being treated equally. The same can not be said for Kompus and Haavel. As soon as they became majority shareholders, we were quickly excluded from daily operations, our employment was terminated and our access to the company’s information was shut off. Our firing came weeks after we started asking for documents and financial data, which is still being kept from us.

We have now learned that Tütreke OÜ must have obtained control over Zaum Studio OÜ by fraud. We believe the money used by Tütreke OÜ to buy the majority stake was taken illegally from Zaum Studio OÜ itself, money that belonged to the studio and all shareholders but was used for the benefit of one. Money that should have gone towards making the sequel. We believe that these actions — which in our view, and the view of our lawyers, amount to criminal wrongdoing punishable by up to three years imprisonment — were perpetrated by Ilmar Kompus and Tõnis Haavel with support from Kaur Kender, another minority shareholder. This is hardly surprising given that Tõnis Haavel, who we believe to be the ringleader, has been convicted for defrauding investors on a different matter in 2007 [https://www.riigiteataja.ee/kohtulahendid/fail.html?fid=303963621].

We are now in the process of reviewing our legal options. Both civil claims and criminal charges are on the table — in Estonia and the United Kingdom.

Needless to say, it has been a very difficult time for us. After five years of gruelling work we released Disco Elysium, a game beloved by millions. As our reward, we were summarily fired and cut off from our life’s work — the world of Elysium. The company we built has been looted, while our own earnings are insufficient even to cover legal fees.

Until now, we’ve refrained from speaking out. This has been entirely voluntary, out of consideration for the people still working at ZA/UM — and for our own mental health. But given the severity of our suspicions — and the seriousness of the evidence we have — we think it’s time people knew what has transpired at the company.

We remain eternally thankful to all the fans of Disco Elysium, who have offered 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 mass audience. This is a truly wonderous thing. No one can take that from us.

We also believe in what Harrier du Bois calls “the law”. It’s not perfect, but it’s there to protect those who create from those who take. And so it will.

Robert Kurvitz — game director

Aleksander Rostov — art director

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Val Hull
Val Hull

Resident role-playing RPG game expert. Knows where trolls and paladins come from. You must fight for your right to gather your party before venturing forth.

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