Ozy Media said it would cease operations, less than a week after a New York Times The article raising questions about the company’s business practices prompted high-profile exits and a pushback from some of the major advertisers.
“At Ozy, we have been blessed with an extraordinary team of dedicated staff. Many of them are world-class journalists and seasoned professionals to whom we owe tremendous gratitude and who are wonderful colleagues. Therefore, it is with the deepest of hearts. that we must announce today that we are closing the doors of Ozy, “the board said in a statement Friday.
The company had been through a whirlwind after the New York Times reported Sunday that Ozy’s chief operating officer, Samir Rao, had posed as a GOOG 2.40% YouTube executive from Alphabet Inc. in a fundraising call for funds in February with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Ozy CEO Carlos. Watson, in a statement Sunday, said Rao’s behavior on the call was due to mental health issues.
Marc Lasry, an investor in Ozy and co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks National Basketball Association team, has since retired from Ozy’s board, citing a lack of relevant experience; Katty Kay, a high-profile recruit for Ozy who was a correspondent and presenter for the BBC, left the company; and several major Ozy advertisers suspended their ad campaigns, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
On Tuesday, Ozy’s board of directors said it has hired the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison LLP to “conduct a review of the company’s business activities.”
The fallout had also extended to Ozy’s investors. SV Angel surrendered his shares in Ozy, an unusual move for a venture capital firm. Axios previously reported on SV Angel’s move. Axel Springer, another Ozy investor, has said he supports the board’s investigation into the company’s business practices.
Ozy had raised $ 83 million in April 2020 and was valued at $ 159 million, according to PitchBook Data, a startup research firm.
Beyond Axel Springer and SV Angel, the company had raised money from sponsors like Emerson Collective, the philanthropic organization founded by Laurene Powell Jobs. Ozy has also attracted investment from Lasry and David Drummond, the former chief legal officer of Alphabet, Google’s parent company.
Watson co-founded Ozy in 2013 after working as a banker at Goldman Sachs and as a presenter for MSNBC. The name of the company comes from “Ozymandias”, a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley about the statue of a ruler whose kingdom has been eroded by time. On his website, Ozy says he interprets the poem as “a call to think big while remaining humble.”
Ozy posted articles, videos, and podcasts focused on current events. Watson organized a talk show that included meetings with musicians and actors such as Matthew McConaughey, Scarlett Johansson and “Hamilton” star Daveed Diggs. Ozy also hosted Ozy Fest, a series of events with bold names from entertainment, politics, and business.