PlayUp’s Ex-CEO A ‘Scapegoat’ For Failed Deal?

Dr. Laila Mintas offers starkly different view of why company's proposed $450 million sale evaporated.
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A federal judge in Nevada should not issue a preliminary injunction against former PlayUp CEO Dr. Laila Mintas, her attorneys asserted in a court filing on Monday, because “there is no evidence that Dr. Mintas has misappropriated or will misappropriate [PlayUp] trade secrets.”

The filing escalated the sometimes personal war of words that began on Nov. 30, when leaders of the Australia-based mobile sports betting company filed a lawsuit alleging that Mintas would “destroy the company” if she didn’t get her way.

At the core of the dispute is a recent collapse in negotiations between PlayUp and Bahamas-based FTX, a cryptocurrency company that was considering a $450 million purchase of PlayUp, which is live for sports betting in New Jersey and Colorado, with more states pending. PlayUp’s version is that Mintas, while in the midst of contract talks with the company in which she sought to double her annual salary to $1 million, disparaged PlayUp’s high-ranking colleagues and caused FTX to walk away from the deal.

Based upon Dr. Mintas’ conduct and threats, PlayUp reasonably believes she has sufficient access to the data, records, regulators, customers, affiliates, and trading partners of PlayUp to carry out the threats she is making immediately, in violation of the Confidentiality and Non-Disparagement provisions of her Agreement,” PlayUp’s attorneys wrote earlier this month.

But Mintas’ reply, in which PlayUp is accused of trying to make her into a “scapegoat,” paints a completely different picture.

PlayUp executives said to be ‘greedy’

It is the global CEO of PlayUp, Daniel Simic, who is to blame for FTX’s exit from negotiations, Mintas’ attorneys wrote — and they submitted emails that they said prove that point.

Just before an early November meeting with FTX executives, Mintas said that Simic emailed her to say that he wanted FTX to pay an additional $170 million on top of the previously discussed $450 million figure. Of the added money, Simic is said to have sought $105 million for FTX’s purchase of a company called PlayChip, while the other $65 million would to go to “key staff” of the companies. Under this alleged arrangement, Simic would have received $25 million.

FTX executives, Mintas’ lawyers say, informed PlayUp that the insisted-upon purchase of PlayChip and various other demands became dealbreakers. She also asserts that FTX executives also referred to Simic as “dodgy” and did not want to deal with him — while deciding to wait to inform Simic and a colleague of their rejection of the plan until “once they have left the island, so they won’t come back and knock on their door.”

Mintas alleges that the majority of the board members of PlayUp collectively control PlayChip, which is why the amended terms were sought. PlayUp’s lawsuit against Mintas was filed on Nov. 30, the same day her employment contract expired, and is described as part of a ploy to “lock her out of her email accounts and access, because [PlayUp leaders] knew that Dr. Mintas had the evidence to demonstrate it was Simic who killed the deal with FTX, and the other PlayChip board members were part of it.”

Mintas’ reputation at stake

Another key part of the 25-page filing on Monday concerned Mintas’ standing in the U.S. gaming industry. Mintas has been a mainstay at nearly all of the major industry conferences for several years, often serving as a panelist or a panel moderator.

“The irony is that PlayUp is disparaging her and ruining her reputation in the industry, making her toxic to future employers by doing exactly what they pretended to be concerned Dr. Mintas would do, but she has not,” Mintas’ attorneys wrote. “She waited to inform people of her departure from PlayUp so as not to harm PlayUp, and PlayUp took advantage of her trust and dictated the narrative in the media.

“Since filing this lawsuit, PlayUp Inc. has eviscerated Dr. Mintas’ reputation in the media. She cannot obtain employment. … Dr. Mintas also had a conversation with a headhunter and after the news broke, he told her that under these circumstances, there is no way for her to get hired. Simic attempts to paint a picture of Dr. Mintas as the irrational woman, stating in his affidavit, ‘I have found her to be quite irrational in her behavior.’ Dr. Mintas is quite rational and appropriately reacted to watching her two years of hard work and $1.2 million investment go up in flames due to Simic’s misconduct.

“She has no motive to harm PlayUp. In two years, she received a salary of $320,000 after tax and invested $1.2 million. In other words, if PlayUp fails, she has lost at least $880,000 and in fact worked two years for free, night and day, to achieve PlayUp’s success, not taking one single day of vacation. She has every incentive to see PlayUp succeed, but cannot sit idly by as PlayUp makes false statements about her and to her detriment.”

Image: Shutterstock

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