Fewer than 72 hours after announcing Ozy Media would be closing its operations, chief executive of the beleaguered digital media startup (and one-time cable news host) Carlos Watson is now reversing course.
Watson went on CNBC’s Squawk Box and sat down with Today’s Craig Melvin Monday morning, and on both programs said the company will not be shutting down. At least not yet.
“We were premature,” Watson said on Squawk Box of the decision. He added that over the weekend, Ozy 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,” said Watson. “At our best, this will be our Lazarus moment.”
Has the company shut down or are you still open for business? –@craigmelvin
We’re going to open for business … this is our Lazarus moment. -Carlos Watson, CEO of Ozy Media pic.twitter.com/r8uYGuS4gK
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) October 4, 2021
It isn’t totally clear if the company’s staff will return or how Watson plans to continue operations, and when that might happen.
Ben Smith of The New York Times first reported last week that Ozy Media chief operating officer Samir Rao impersonated a YouTube executive on a call with Goldman Sachs while seeking out a $40 million investment. The company also allegedly inflated viewer metrics, and lied to former producers about filming a show for A&E. Additionally, an advertisement for Watson’s YouTube talk show cites a quote from Deadline referring to Watson as The Best Interviewer on TV. However, that line was actually from Rao, the same Ozy exec who impersonated the YouTube executive, in a 2020 Deadline article about The Carlos Watson Show.
The Times’ report set off a week of intense scrutiny and subsequent departures from the company, including chairman of the board Marc Lasry, and former BBC World News anchor Katty Kay.
“We definitively made some mistakes … I know we want to have larger conversations about whether mistakes are ingrained in who we are or whether, like a lot of young companies, we made mistakes but that was the 20%, not the 80% of who we are,” Watson said.
— Squawk Box (@SquawkCNBC) October 4, 2021