Business

Sporting Innovations sues ex-CEO, saying he plotted to form a rival

Asim Pasha helped found Sporting Innovations in 2011 as an offshoot of the soccer club Sporting Kansas City. He was Sporting KC’s chief information officer and chief architect before being named co-CEO of Sporting Innovations, which works with sports teams and venues on improving fans’ experiences at games.
Asim Pasha helped found Sporting Innovations in 2011 as an offshoot of the soccer club Sporting Kansas City. He was Sporting KC’s chief information officer and chief architect before being named co-CEO of Sporting Innovations, which works with sports teams and venues on improving fans’ experiences at games. along@kcstar.com

Sporting Innovations is suing former co-CEO Asim Pasha for allegedly plotting to create a competing company by using the firm’s resources, business relationships, confidential information and trade secrets.

In addition, the lawsuit alleges that Pasha spent tens of thousands of dollars of Sporting Innovations’ money for personal use.

Sporting Innovations fired Pasha on June 16 and the day after filed its lawsuit with the U.S. District Court of Western Missouri. Pasha’s son, Zain Pasha, a product manager for the company, was sued as a co-conspirator.

Sporting Innovations alleges that Asim and Zain Pasha violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and breached the company’s contract. Neither Asim nor Zain Pasha was available Tuesday for comment. Sporting Innovations also had no comment.

Asim Pasha helped found Sporting Innovations in 2011 as an offshoot of the soccer club Sporting KC. He was Sporting KC’s chief information officer and chief architect before being named co-CEO of Sporting Innovations, which works with sports teams and venues on improving fans’ experiences at games.

Sporting KC co-owner Robb Heineman is now the sole CEO at Sporting Innovations.

According to the lawsuit, which seeks $75,000 in damages, Asim and Zain Pasha spent the past year colluding with a New York consulting firm to create a company called Knowledge Works.

Sporting Innovations began working with the New York firm Vernalis Group Inc. in late 2013.

But the lawsuit alleges that in the summer of 2014, Asim Pasha took steps to shift all decision-making power regarding Vernalis to himself, including removing other executives’ network and administrative access.

The lawsuit says that in September 2014, Vernalis began sending more frequent invoices to Sporting Innovations, although Vernalis did not provide details about the content of its work. The suit claims that this was when Asim and Zain Pasha initiated confidential conversations with Nader Hanafy, managing director at Vernalis.

Sporting Innovations has also filed suit against Vernalis Group and Hanafy. Hanafy did not respond to requests for comment.

According to the lawsuit, the Pashas deleted many of their communications with each other and Vernalis, but they did leave some scraps of correspondence behind.

On Sept. 29, the lawsuit says, two isolated lines from their Gmail chat remained undeleted. One line, sent from Asim to Zain, said, “and then actual expenses we siphon.” Asim sent another message half an hour later that said, “Delete hangout from phone.”

On March 16, Zain Pasha resigned from Sporting Innovations, but he refused to sit for an exit interview or return his company laptop, which the lawsuit says contains confidential company and trade secret information.

Around the same time, the lawsuit says, Asim Pasha began ignoring emails confronting him about tens of thousands of dollars he had charged on the company credit card.

After three months, Sporting Innovations fired Asim Pasha. Like his son, the suit says, he still has his company laptop.

Sporting Innovations is known for its inventive approaches in boosting fan engagement. Earlier this year it made headlines for being named one of Fast Company’s most innovative companies for sports. Asim Pasha, too, received honors as one of Sports Business Daily’s 50 most influential people in sports business in 2013. Previously Pasha worked for Cerner Corp., whose co-founders Cliff Illig and Neal Patterson are owners of Sporting KC.

To reach Kasia Kovacs, call 816-234-4455 or send email to kkovacs@kcstar.com. Twitter: @kasiakovacs.

  Comments