The disgraced leader addressed his staff this week while they still wait for answers on digital media site’s future
According to one contractor, he hasn’t worked since Sunday’s Times report. “Everything is up in the air.”
Another employee shared the same sentiment. “It doesn’t seem like it’s going to survive, but stranger things have happened,”The individual spoke.
All of them spoke on condition anonymity to say they feared for the safety of their jobs and other retaliation.
Watson called an “all hands”Zoom meeting held one day after the Times explosive report. This reported that the company was accused of inflating its video viewership and traffic online. Now on-leave COO Samir Rao had impersonated a Google executive on a fundraising call — sparking a potential FBI investigation.
“He said he was going to fix this,”Eugene Robinson, former editor-at-large at Ozy, said.
However, another employee stated that Watson was believed only by a small number of people. This made it necessary for someone else to rescue the company. This staffer spoke out about Watson: “It’s all spin.”
Robinson, a nine year veteran of Ozy, was fired in June after refusing to close his doors. SubstackHe said that approval was obtained for the launch of the product months prior to its launch, and added: “You got to realize that people are just not going to believe” Watson’s assurances.
Watson made public the memo he sent his 60-member staff. However, insiders claimed that some of Watson’s colleagues had already resigned or updated their LinkedIn profiles when they started looking for employment.
The Times story has had dizzying ripple effects. Within a matter of weeks, employees, senior executives, investors and journalists have abandoned a digital media company, which has raised an estimated $83million since 2012. Katty Kay, a respected TV journalist and producer, Laurene Powell Jobs, Ron Conway, Marc Lasry and Marc Lasry resigned this week as the chairman of its board, just weeks after he assumed that title.
On Friday, Watson resigned from National Public Radio’s board of directors and on Tuesday stepped down as the host of this year’s News and Documentary Emmy Awards.
Ozy’s implosion shows how swiftly a digital chain reaction can be set off with a single piece of information. And the fate of the company, and of Watson remain unclear as an outside law firm has been brought in to investigate Ozy’s “business activities.”
Ozy and Watson did not respond to requests to comment on this story.
Ozy, a media company that claimed to be a modern media venture, was “ahead of the curve,”Daily criticisms of its business practices have been levelled at it. Since Ben Smith’s initial report in the Times, Ozy has faced accusations that it falsely claimed Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne were investors and produced a Watson-hosted TV talk show while falsely claiming to guests and corporate partners that it would air on A&E. The company Then, claimedThat “The Carlos Watson Show” was Amazon Prime’s first talk show; later, that it had been “sold”YouTube Originals. Reps for A&E, Amazon and YouTube have all refuted those claims.
Watson called the Times piece in a Monday interview with “a bulls— ad hominem attack”It defended Rao’s handling, claiming that he was a YouTube executive and calling Goldman Sachs to inflate its traffic and audience metrics.
Robinson said he had no knowledge of the impersonation fiasco but admitted suspicions about the company’s rosy portrayal of its audience. When he questioned some of the numbers Ozy was peddling to outsiders — such as its 50 million readership — Robinson recalled that Watson would brush off the optimistic numbers as “placeholders,”This is a common practice in Silicon Valley.
“It’s amusing to me that (Watson is) accusing other people of lying,”Robinson noted that Watson had accused Robinson of lying about Substack’s launch permission. “It’s pretty clear he and Samir need to go.”