Carlos Watson: Ozy Media Will Not Shut Down

The company, which announced its closure last week, has been embroiled in scandal.

Carlos Watson, the CEO of Ozy Media, said Monday morning (October 4) that he’s reversing the decision to shut down his company after speaking with a variety of investors, advertisers, readers and more.
“We are going to open for business, so we are making news today,” Watson told NBC’s Today. “This is our Lazarus moment, if you will.”

The decision is just the latest dramatic twist for Ozy Media, which has been embroiled in scandal since a bombshell The New York Times exposé reported that the company’s chief operating officer, Samir Rao, impersonated a YouTube executive on a call with Goldman Sachs while seeking a $40 million investment. The company also allegedly inflated viewer metrics.

Speaking with CNBC on Monday, Watson said his decision to shut down Ozy’s operations last week was made hastily. 

“We were premature,” Watson said, adding that over the weekend, the company had “good conversations” with investors and advertisers. “We have lots of things we have to do to improve, but I very genuinely feel like we have a meaningful, transformational voice,” he added.
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Watson did not divulge who is currently funding the company but added during his interview with Today that Ozy’s board consisted of himself and GSV Ventures co-founder Michael Moe. He also said changes would be coming for the company.

“The last couple of days gave a lot of people a chance to take cheap shots, and that’s not to say there aren’t things that we could do better,” he said. “We need to do better on data, we need to do better on marketing, and I think there are some things we could do better on leadership and culture.”

Additionally, Watson responded to some of the news coverage over the last week surrounding the scandal.

“When you saw people start to put my name in the lede alongside [Theranos founder] Elizabeth Holmes, who never had a real product, who raised billions of dollars?” Watson said. “We have five newsletters that go out to millions of people, a dozen TV shows including one that won an Emmy. That is not a house of cards.”

In addressing the call with Goldman Sachs, Watson acknowledged how problematic it was: “That is a tragic situation, it is horrible, nothing good about that at all. I am grateful that Goldman didn’t invest, because that would have been the worst of all.”

Watson resigned from NPR’s board of directors last week after the wave of news coverage around Ozy. Marc Lasry, who had been the chairman of Ozy’s board, also stepped down.

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