Content warning: This article contains details of alleged drug use by the CEO of THESPIKE.gg, Arur “m1nac” Minacov. It also details several instances of allegations of racist and homophobic language used.
The flight was set to last hours for several staff members at THESPIKE.GG. From September 26 to October 10, during one of the worst pandemics in modern history, CEO Arur “m1nac” Minacov had organized a staff retreat to Malta.
“My friend can hook us up with PC stations in the Villa,” he told his staff members via the THESPIKE.gg Slack. “We will bond, do some team building exercises, party, and work when we have to.”
Several staff members arrived in Malta to what they thought would become a normal holiday retreat and some time away from writing on one of VALORANT’s most popular news sites.
Not all staff members could attend. Those that did encountered an intense scene. The parties were loud and extreme. Two strippers were brought into the villa for the first two nights, according to one staff member speaking under the condition of anonymity for their protection. Staff members, most of whom went out during the day, came back to lines of cocaine spread across the rooms.
“He passed out half the time from too much drugs and alcohol,” according to another former contributing writer speaking under the condition of anonymity.
“Cocaine was everywhere,” one former contributor said.
https://t.co/w4Z6OZ22TS: 7 Months of Unpaid Work and Empty Promises. It has to end.
— Mostafa Hossam (@Mostafa_7os) May 14, 2021
While Minacov, his friends and few staff members were away on a sun-kissed retreat, multiple contributors, designers and high-level administrators were allegedly owed thousands of dollars, according to sources. At the time of publication, former staff members and contributors are allegedly owed around $40,000 in missed payments.
Upcomer began to receive information regarding the lack of payments to staff in January of this year and spoke to several former staff members at the website and the CEO during the course of this investigation. All testimonies will remain anonymous for the former staffers’ protection.
On May 14, two former contributors, Shawn “Germanicus” Heerema and Mostafa Hossam, were the first to publicly detail the alleged lack of payment by the THESPIKE.gg CEO and the poor working conditions they endured. Problems began toward the latter half of 2020, they said, when Hossam did not receive payments for his written contributions to the site.
“Month after month, payments were not coming in at all,” he said in a statement. “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.”
At the time of publication, Hossam said he is owed seven months of unpaid work. This totaled to around $3,500 USD, since his monthly rate amounted to $500. Germanicus is allegedly owed around $2,064.70 as well. One former staffer alleged that Minacov often transferred payments in different currencies to undercut staffers, as first reported by Dot Esports on May 14. Germanicus said one former staff member is owed almost half of the total $40,000 sum of unprocessed payments, which was confirmed after a message exchange with the former staffer.
“[I] would like to apologize to everyone,” Minacov said on May 14 in THESPIKE.gg Slack general channel following the statements by Germanicus and Hossam. “I am just sad to see the public s***, before you let me reach back.”
According to sources, however, THESPIKE.gg’s CEO was informed about the lack of payments from late 2020 to May 14, however, according to screenshots acquired by Upcomer.
“I will be doing a statement shortly for the journalists who are looking for clout only, so they can release their s*** article,” he said. “The other story will come out in a few days, hopefully it saves me.”
I will no longer be involved in gaming/Esports and will make sure the money due is paid shortly. Proof will be provided. #out
— m1nac (@aminacov) May 15, 2021
On May 15, Minacov said that he has sold his equity in THESPIKE.gg and operations will continue by Josef “hex4” Orland. He said he will cease involvement in esports projects as well.
“I will no longer be involved in gaming/esports and will make sure the money due is paid shortly,” Minacov said on Medium. “Proof will be provided.”
“I will keep everyone up to date on twitter when payments are done and show proof as soon as it’s sent to each one of them,” he said in a statement on Medium.
Other allegations of inappropriate and racist behavior have also surfaced in recent days. According to sources, Minacov said a contractor of Afghani and Indian descent looked “like a terrorist,” in a Slack channel, as first reported by Dot Esports and Upcomer can confirm by a screenshot obtained.
Among the claims identified during Upcomer’s initial investigation last year:
- A source said that Minacov called a former staff member a “b****” after he did not create a graphic to the CEO’s liking, according to an image of a text conversation between the designer and Minacov acquired by Upcomer. The designer is allegedly owed $2,400 USD.
- THESPIKE.gg’s CEO threatened another former employee, that source claimed, if they “leaked” part of their conversations with the CEO, according to a screenshot obtained. “I will lock down your accounts, and also no need to remind you that you have to delete all THESPIKE shit from your PCs,” Minacov said. “If there are leaks, or part of our convos are out there, I will not be gentle.”
- During a discussion surrounding the popularity of VALORANT in other countries, Minacov said Russia and Brazil will have the “biggest CS:GO fanatics” while “China can suck my c***,” according a screenshot obtained.
- In another discussion with several staffers, Minacov dubbed Blizzard’s upcoming battle royale, likely referencing Warzone at the time, “a gay ass game.” He also called 2020 a “gay year” and joked about organizations such as T1 Esports changing their logo to pride colors in June 2020. “Should we put our logo gay too till the end of the month?” he said in Slack. “Every big org is doing it, gay ass.” During a further discussion involving Pride Month, which is used to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, Minacov said “they had their day already, now it’s a month. Ffs what more do you want?”
- THESPIKE.gg’s CEO said he would “rape” a competing website called Valorantify, as first reported by Dot Esports and confirmed by Upcomer by a screenshot obtained. The website published VALORANT news and was a direct competitor to THESPIKE.gg. “I got myself the right tools to be on top of them, and will rape them sideways,” he said. The website would later be acquired by THESPIKE.gg in August 2020. At the time of publication the Valorantify website redirects users to THESPIKE.gg. “Fuck you Valorantify,” he said, according to a screenshot obtained by Upcomer. “Valorantify are retarded.”
- Minacov allegedly partied on several occasions with multiple professional players in Montreal, the largest city in Canada’s Québec province, according to one former staffer. He’s donated “dozens, hundreds of dollars/subs to players,” they said. The decision leads to further questions about the editorial integrity of THESPIKE.gg, as Minacov also allegedly invited players to his home to discuss competitors of his site and why professionals should not engage with those sites.
Most recently, during one of the CEO’s livestreams on Twitch on April 18, he gambled using online casino website Bet99. In one clip the CEO deposited around $8,210.07 since March but had $4.71 USD in his account balance. The discrepancy leads to questions of whether THESPIKE.gg’s CEO’s lifestyle played a role in the lack of payment to employees.
The controversy around THESPIKE.gg CEO’s dealings was not Minacov’s first run-in with mismanagement of an outlet. The CEO had attempted to create a previous website with a similar theme for Respawn Entertainment’s Apex Legends in 2019. Minacov tried to hire writers to work without compensation and create rankings for the website, similar to THESPIKE.gg, according to one source. The website’s social media was used to promote Minacov’s personal Twitter account.
Minacov also tipped professional players in the Apex Legends community large sums of money and criticized the players if they refused to play with him, according to the source. In March 2020, TSM Apex Legends player Phillip “ImperialHal” Dosen criticized the CEO on Twitter after he called his stream “boring” among other obscene remarks.
On May 14, Minacov spoke with Upcomer regarding the allegations. He did not provide a statement on the record but instead attempted to speak to several other journalists.