Grand Theft Auto lead buys a big, beautiful church

Rockstar North President Leslie Benzies purchased St. Stephen's Church in Edinburgh, Scotland, with the intent to prolong its role as a community venue for arts, theater and music gatherings. St. Stephen's Church is just half a mile from Benzies' home, and the purchase was "entirely philanthropic," spokesperson Philip Johnston told Edinburgh News. The deal was thought to exceed £500,000. Benzies is the lead developer on the Grand Theft Auto series, from Grand Theft Auto 3 onwards.

"The preservation of St. Stephen's church as a community center meets a pressing need as well as protecting an important historical building," Johnston said. "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 centre that will benefit the wider community."

The church features the longest clock pendulum in Europe and a 160-foot tower, with performance space that can hold 800 people. Edinburgh News reported that St. Stephen's Church had been a community center for the past 20 years, but recently, it'd been used less. Benzies out-bid more than 50 other potential buyers, some of whom wished to turn the church into bars, restaurants or private residences.

"We will engage with the community as the plans progress and look forward to welcoming local residents and groups back to the centre in the very near future," Johnston said.

[Image: Malcolm McCurrach]