Daniel Simic, founder of the Australian gambling company PlayUp, has fired back at claims by his ex-CEO that he is making her a “scapegoat” for the collapse of a proposed $450 million sale of the company to a cryptocurrency firm in November.
A preliminary injunction has been sought by PlayUp in U.S. District Court in Nevada to prevent Mintas from doing what PlayUp claims could be further harm to the company.
In a filing Friday, Simic’s attorneys submitted a series of confrontational emails between him and Dr. Laila Mintas, the ex-CEO, that began in July and peaked in late November.
“Laila, this is getting out of hand. You are destroying PlayUp at a rapid rate,” Simic wrote Nov. 26 in one of the submitted emails.
Simic added that he feared “staff walking out” due to Mintas allegedly “disparaging me with false information about being blacklisted and so forth. … Please stop this.”
Mintas is alleged to have replied that Simic is “a pathological liar” who has “big mental issues” and that he must step down immediately. PlayUp sued Mintas four days later, on the same day that her contract with the company ended.
The collapse of the deal, according to Mintas, was because Simic sought to boost the the sale price by $170 million — $105 million to buy a Simic-run company called PlayChips, and $65 million in executive bonuses that included $25 million for Simic.
Both parties tout same email
Attorneys for Mintas, in a Dec. 27 filing, said that PlayUp had “conveniently” left out a Nov. 14 email from a FTX executive explaining why the company decided to pass on the deal.
But Simic on Friday replied that the email actually helps his cause, and was not previously submitted only because the correspondence was judged to be confidential.
In FTX’s email submitted as evidence in the case, company executive Ramnik Arora wrote: “To our surprise, key personnel from the US business are not a part of the future plans of this business.”
Arora added that “there seems to be mistrust and lack of communication” between the US and global sectors of PlayUp, and “There is discontent within the team and the board on the valuations.”
Mintas has asserted that she was by far the key employee leading the company’s U.S. expansion, and that FTX’s objection stemmed from her not being listed as a company executive in the future. But Simic insisted that “Our entire team is important.”
In an email sent to FTX on Thursday, Simic sought clarification as to whether the company’s decision to walk away from the deal stemmed from his meeting with FTX — as Mintas claims — or from separate discussions, also in The Bahamas in late November, between Mintas and FTX.
Simic also pointed out that a day after his Nov. 24 meeting with FTX, a Zoom call was held to introduce FTX to PlayUp board member Dennis Drazin, the operator of Monmouth Park racetrack in New Jersey described by Simic as “a prominent and successful betting industry figure.”
The Drazin declaration
As it happens, Drazin, who was promoted to chairman of the company three weeks ago, sent the same judge in Nevada Thursday a formal declaration designed to clarify his role in the dispute.
In the declaration, Drazin — appointed to the PlayUp board two years ago — says that he has “been friends with the Defendant for approximately seven years. The Defendant introduced me to PlayUp.”
Drazin wrote that he has elected to “make the following statements in support of PlayUp’s Reply in Support of Motion for Preliminary Injunction.”
In Mintas’ recent filing, she declared that “Drazin encouraged Dr. Mintas to travel to the Bahamas” for the ill-fated meeting with FTX.
But Drazin disputed that interpretation, writing, “I only encouraged the defendant to attend the meeting with FTX when accompanied with [PlayUp executive] Michael Costa and Daniel Simic of PlayUp.”
But Mintas, according to both sides, wanted to finalize a new contract that would double her salary from $500,000 to $1 million.
Drazin more emphatically disputed Mintas’ assertions that Drazin “advised them that they had to take action against Dr. Mintas because otherwise they would get sued by the shareholders.”
“I did not disclose anything to the Defendant about the legal advice received by PlayUp, nor my communications with Daniel Simic about such advice.”
Drazin added that while he did support a renewal of Mintas’ contract, Mintas did not respond to communications from PlayUp’s legal team about how to structure such a deal. Drazin called that impasse “problematic,” and also said that Mintas insisted that “there would not be any acceptable contract other than the one she demanded.”
Finally, Drazin asserted that while Mintas is alleged to have threatened to report violations by PlayUp to various state regulators if she did not get a new contract on her terms, Mintas told Drazin that “there are no regulatory violations to report, particularly in New Jersey.”