Disco Elysium devs say they were forced out of ZA/UM after fraudulent takeover

Two of the minds behind Disco Elysium are accusing ZA/UM of fraudulent behavior.

Disco Elysium game director Robert Kurvitz and art director Aleksander Rostov have published a statement alleging they were forced out of ZA/UM after Estonian businessmen Ilmar Kompus and Tõnis Haavel obtained control of the company using fraudulent means.

There's a bit of context required here, so allow us to digress. Back in October, three key members of the Disco Elyisum team – including Kurvitz and Rostov – departed ZA/UM and claimed they had been forced out by studio leadership.

The situation was complicated by the fact that Kurvitz and Rostov were studio co-founders and shareholders, and eventually resulted in Kurvitz filing a lawsuit against ZA/UM in Estonia on behalf of his company Telomer OÜ in a bid to "obtain information and review documents."

Although Rostov wasn't included in that lawsuit, the co-founder has now penned a Medium post alongside Kurvitz to share their account of what unfolded at ZA/UM.

Rostov and Kurvitz explain their rights to Disco Elysium exist in the form of a minority stake in an Estonian company called Zaum Studio OÜ, which "owns everything related to the game."

They add that the majority of Zaum Studio OÜ's shares were initially owned by Estonian businessman and investor Margus Linnamäe, who provided the initial capital to kickstart the company. 

In 2021, however, Linnamäe was bought out by another minority shareholder, an Estonian company called Tütreke OÜ, which is described by Rostov and Kurvitz as a "vehicle for two Estonian businessmen – Ilmar Kompus and Tõnis Haavel."

Now, the duo claim to have learned that Tütreke OÜ "must have obtained control over Zaum Studio OÜ by fraud," and that the cash used by Tütreke OÜ to purchase its majority stake in the company was "taken illegally from Zaum Studio OÜ itself."

"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," reads the post.

"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."

Rostov and Kurvitz say the money allegedly taken from Zaum by Tütreke OÜ should have been used to finance a sequel to Disco Elysium, but that in the end it was used for the "benefit of one [shareholder]."

"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," they continue.

"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. 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."

The pair added that being "summarily fired and cut off from our life's work" has been difficult, and say they have so far struggled to cover their legal fees.

"Until now, we’ve refrained from speaking out," they continue. "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."

You can check out the full statement from Rostov and Kurvitz on Medium.

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