Artur "m1nac" Minavo, owner and founder of VALORANT website THESPIKE.gg, has been accused of current and former contributors that he owes months of salaries to the website's staff members, to the estimated amount of $40,000.
One contributor, Mostafa Hossam, acknowledged that while payments were regular up until November 2020, they have been missing since.
"At the moment of writing, there is easily more than $40K overdue payments to current and former employees.
Month after month, payments were not coming in at all. In my own case, I had 4 months of pay overdue that I chased for over 30 days in February 2021 just to receive half of it. Fast forward to now, after the half was paid, I have 7 months of unpaid work due to be paid. 5 months from 2021 and 2 months from 2020. I haven't complained once, and neither has any of the staff as far I know from the writing team, which is a pure two-man team since the departure of our EIC in December 2020."
Another contributor Shawn "Germanicus" Heerema, claimed he's owed 2500 CAD, adding that "one employee makes up over half of this number [$40,000]" of owed salaries.
Since earlier this month, THESPIKE's crew has been on strike, having issued the ultimatum of no VCT Masters coverage until what they are owed is paid.
Minacov's checkered esports history
Minacov's track record in the esports industry has been less than clean. In 2018, Minacov, then a former CEO of the EnVision Esports Overwatch team, confirmed publicly that he had not paid his players their last month over "frustration on my side for investing so much cash, for clearly nothing in return from having a professional esports organization in Overwatch" (per Dot Esports).
In 2018, Minacov was also running the popular CSGO skin marketplace OPSkins (founded in 2015), which got into an altercation with the game's developer Valve. At the time, OPSkins had developed a bot technology, allowing it to circumvent Valve's seven-day cooldown for trading digital items (like CSGO skins) — a limitation implemented largely to hinder the rampant growth of skin gambling and reselling. After a back-and-forth, Valve sent a cease-and-desist and disabled all OPSkins bots, with users losing an estimated $2M worth of CS:GO skins, despite given a two-week notice from the developer.
"In March 2018, we applied a seven-day trade cooldown to CS:GO trades, to fight fraud and misuse of Steam Accounts," wrote Valve. "On June 6, OPSkins launched ExpressTrade, which uses Valve intellectual property and violates our Steam Subscriber Agreement, and is already being used by other businesses to avoid Valve policies. Today we messaged OPSkins to cease using Valve intellectual property. We also notified them that we will lock OPSkins Steam Accounts by June 21st, 2018."
Minacov and THESPIKE
According to Hossam, Minacov would answer questions about missing salaries with " promises of other projects succeeding to eventually fund THESPIKE". This included an OPSkins alternative called TOPSkins (a website that is still not launched) and Minacov's play on Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT) — OPNFTs, another project "coming very soon" with "massive plan behind".
After the accusations were made public, Minacov promised that all outstanding debts will be paid out and "former and current soldiers will be taken care off", while inviting esports publications to hear his story. While initially offering to answer questions from Inven Global, Minacov later denied comment on:
- Whether the $40,000 amount mentioned is correct
- How many more staff members are owed salaries
- What's the reason behind the unpaid salaries
- When did Minacov intend to pay out the debts before the accusations were made public
- When the debts are going to be cleared in light of current developments
Sources close to the publication told Inven that Minacov would "constantly make excuses", like having lost his card, waiting for a check to clear, or just not replying. According to an Inven Global source, Minacov was also no stranger to homophobic or racist slurs in the company's Slack channel.
"He also would consistently make racist and sexist comments, as well as talk about "raping the competition", raping people, etc. I know it made multiple women there uncomfortable."
In a screenshot obtained by Inven Global, Minacov is seen saying that a content creator looks "like a terrorist" and that they should "clear your beard."
Minacov has not commented to any publication when the outstanding debts will be cleared.
Disclaimer: An earlier version of this article implied that only THESPIKE writers were owed money. The article has been correct to reflect that it's THESPIKE staff members (developers included) and not just contributors).
Esports editor and journalist of 10+ years. Lives on black tea and corgi love.