PlayUp CEO Fight Gets Ugly

Australian sports betting firm PlayUp blames former U.S. CEO Laila Mintas (l.) for scotching a $450 million deal to sell the company. Mintas denies the allegations and says PlayUp has “eviscerated her reputation.” Mintas countersued and a court ruled she did not have to adhere to an injunction forcing her to

PlayUp CEO Fight Gets Ugly

Last November, Australian mobile sports betting company PlayUp alleged that actions by soon-to-be-ex-U.S.-CEO Laila Mintas soured a $450 million deal that would have sold the company to Bahamas-based crypto firm FTX.

PlayUp is suing Mintas, who has taken countersued to defend her reputation.

In the U.S., PlayUp currently offers sports betting in New Jersey and Colorado, with more states in the queue, but failed to get one of the Arizona licenses, and important part of the deal with FTX. The company contends that Mintas, amid contract negotiations, bad-mouthed PlayUp executives, causing FTX to exit the deal.

Mintas tells a different story. She said the deal went south because PlayUp CEO Daniel Simic sought to boost 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. Mintas says Simic’s last-minute demands were the real dealbreakers.

In addition, according to Mintas’ attorneys, PlayUp leaders locked her out of her personal accounts because they included “evidence to demonstrate it was Simic who killed the deal with FTX, and the other PlayChip board members were part of it.” Mintas said she was being used as a “scapegoat” for the collapse of the deal.

In emails revealed during the court battle, Simic wrote, “Laila, this is getting out of hand. You are destroying PlayUp at a rapid rate.” He said he feared “staff walking out” due to Mintas allegedly “disparaging me with false information about being blacklisted and so forth. … Please stop this.”

Mintas reportedly replied by calling Simic “a pathological liar” with “big mental issues” and advised that he exit his post immediately.

PlayUp filed suit against Mintas on December 22, the day her contract with the company ended. It won a preliminary injunction in U.S. District Court in Nevada to keep Mintas from doing what it claims would be further harm to the company.

PlayUp attorneys wrote, “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,” in violation of confidentiality and non-disparagement provisions of her contract.

Mintas’ attorneys responded, “There is no evidence that Dr. Mintas has misappropriated or will misappropriate (PlayUp) trade secrets.” The court ruled that PlayUp could not enforce the injunction and Mintas was free to provide information about the company.

“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.”

Mintas’ attorneys said PlayUp has “eviscerated” her reputation, so much so that 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.

“In short, FTX did not pass on the deal because Dr. Mintas disparaged PlayUp but because Simic made unreasonable and unethical demands,” the filing stated.

In more mud-slinging, PlayUp’s legal action claimed Mintas once threatened to “burn PlayUp to the ground” if her compensation was not doubled from $500,000 to $1 million annually; when her demands were not met, PlayUp claims, she approached FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried and said, “There is conflict within the management of PlayUp, there are systemic issues and the company is not clean.”

Speaking to, Mintas said, “I am a major shareholder in PlayUp and invested seven figures of my own savings into the company. It makes no sense that I would have made any of those comments that are quoted in the filing or tried to destroy a deal to sell PlayUp, as I would have benefited from that as well as all other shareholders.

Mintas joined PlayUp as U.S. CEO in December 2019. Before that, she was deputy president at Sportradar and previously served as director of sports integrity for the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF).