Bangkok Post

Company is still open for business, says Ozy CEO


Hours after Carlos Watson, the CEO of Ozy Media, appeared on morning news programmes to say he would revive his company, which announced on Friday that it had shut down, a prominent early investor in Ozy demanded that he spend its remaining cash to pay its employees.

Watson embarked on a media tour on Monday, sitting for interviews on CNBC’s Squawk Box and NBC’s Today show.

“We’re going to open for business, so we’re making news today,” he told Today co-anchor Craig Melvin.

Speaking of the swift fall of the multimedia company he had helped found in 2013 with the backing of deep-pocketed investors, Watson added, “Last week was traumatic. It was difficult, heartbreak­ing in many ways.”

He went on to say he had spoken with investors and advertiser­s, as well as Ozy’s readers and viewers, over the weekend as he prepared to bring the company back.

Ron Conway, the founder of SV Angel, a Silicon Valley investment firm, and one of Ozy’s original financial backers, said on Monday he was troubled to hear Watson say he had been in touch with advertiser­s and investors — but not Ozy employees.

“I want to publicly ask Carlos to take care of his team members,” he said. “Take every ounce of cash and you distribute it to those deserving team members who deserve to be respected at this time.”

Conway said roughly 75 former Ozy employees should be given at least two weeks’ severance, and that he was upset to have read that Watson told employees of the shutdown on Friday in a brief Zoom call.

“Is a five-minute call respectful when people have been giving their lives to you?” he asked.

Ozy announced that it had ceased operations five days after the publicatio­n of a New York Times report that the company had misled potential investors and partners.

In one instance, a top Ozy executive had apparently impersonat­ed a YouTube executive during a February conference call with Goldman Sachs bankers, who were looking to invest $40 million in the company.

The purpose of the apparent impersonat­ion was to assure the Goldman team that Ozy’s videos were a great success on YouTube.

Conway, who said he had invested $50,000 of seed funding in Ozy in 2013, said he had long had doubts about the company’s long-term viability.

In February 2018, he said, he sent an email to Watson advising him to cut costs and seek a buyer for the company as a backup.

“He did not do that,” Conway said, “and now look where those poor employees are sitting.”

Watson did not respond to a request for comment about Conway’s remarks.

The end of Ozy seemed certain on Friday, when the company’s board released a statement saying that “with the heaviest of hearts that we must announce today that we are closing Ozy’s doors.”

It was not clear on Monday how Watson would execute his stated plan to reopen Ozy, whose website appeared to not have been updated since last week.

The last edition of one of its daily newsletter­s, “The Presidenti­al Daily Brief,” was sent Sept 30. On Monday, emails sent to Ozy’s vice president of communicat­ions bounced back as undelivera­ble.

 ?? ?? Watson: To bring the company back
Watson: To bring the company back

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