'Grand Theft Auto' Game Producer to Buy Landmark Church Building in Scotland for $858,000

A Scottish video game producer, who is behind the popular Grand Theft Auto game, is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy a landmark church in Edinburgh for use by the community as a center of arts.

Leslie Benzies, the 43-year-old president of the Rockstar North gaming company, will buy St. Stephen's church, an A-listed Stockbridge building half a mile from his home, for over £500,000 or $858,000, according to Edinburgh Evening News.

The Georgian building of the church, built in 1827, is often used for arts and entertainment festivals in Edinburgh, and Benzies, who is known as the Godfather of Gaming, wants to preserve it as a community center.

Philip Johnston, a spokesman for Benzies, said it is "an entirely philanthropic purchase." Benzies, who has lived in Stockbridge for more than 10 years, recognizes the building's "importance to the community," he said.

"Stockbridge is a busy residential area with a relatively small number of community venues. The preservation of St. Stephen's church as a community center meets a pressing need as well as protecting an important historical building," the spokesperson added.

The church, which has apparently not been in use for worship services, has a gross internal area of around 23,560 square feet. After it was recently announced that the building was for sale, some were keen to develop it into commercial property, as private flats or a bar-restaurant complex.

The building was reconstructed in 1956 with seating for 450 people, a hall with stage, a cafe, a kitchen and offices in the basement.

"We are delighted that we can help bring the church back to its former glory securing its future whilst providing a renovated local and performing arts center that will benefit the wider community," Johnston said.

The church building includes a 160-feet tower with the longest clock pendulum in Europe. It has three levels, including an 800-capacity venue suitable for live music, dance and theater.

Benzies' professional career as a video game programmer began in 1999 at DMA Design, which is now Rockstar North. In 2005, he won a BAFTA Special Award for an outstanding contribution to the games industry.