Ozy Media closes down after week of damaging revelations

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Ozy Media, a digital media firm whose co-founder impersonated a YouTube govt in an effort to boost $40m from Goldman Sachs, stated it was closing, bringing the curtain down on a enterprise that had promised to shake up the information and leisure enterprise.

The choice introduced on Friday night time comes 5 days after The New York Instances reported particulars of the impersonation incident and raised questions on Ozy Media’s enterprise mannequin and the scale of its viewers.

“At Ozy, now we have been blessed with a exceptional group of devoted workers. A lot of them are world-class journalists and skilled professionals to whom we owe large gratitude and who’re great colleagues,” the corporate’s board stated in an announcement.

“It’s subsequently with the heaviest of hearts that we should announce at this time that we’re closing Ozy’s doorways,” it added.

Ozy admitted to the impersonation incident, attributing it to a “psychological well being episode” skilled by cofounder Samir Rao. The New York Instances additionally questioned Ozy’s declare in 2019 that it reached 50m distinctive customers a month and in contrast that to knowledge from ComScore, which measures on-line engagement, exhibiting figures at a fraction of that degree.

Carlos Watson, chief govt, co-founder and the general public face of Ozy Media, had disputed the NYT report, claiming it was inaccurate. In a memo to Ozy Media workers this week, Watson stated the metrics utilized by the New York Instances had been outdated and did not seize his firm’s viewers throughout a number of platforms.

Nonetheless, regardless of Watson’s try and defend Ozy Media, which had attracted a star-filled roster of board members and media contributors through the years, a number of prime staff departed following the New York Instances revelations.

Former BBC journalist Katty Kay resigned amid the allegations, which she known as “critical and troubling”.

Hedge fund supervisor and Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry stepped down from the board after simply three weeks as chair, although he stated he remained an investor within the firm on Thursday.

Ozy pitched itself in 2013 as one in every of a budding group of digital media corporations, similar to Vice and BuzzFeed, which on the time attracted billions of {dollars} from buyers for his or her clout with younger individuals.

The corporate, named after Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias”, drew early funds from Axel Springer in 2014, valuing the group at $120m. In complete the corporate has raised greater than $80m in enterprise funding since its founding, in accordance with PitchBook knowledge.

Earlier Friday, earlier than Ozy introduced its closure, Axel Springer stated it had not held a board seat since 2019 however that one firm govt, Jens Müffelmann, attended conferences in an observational capability.

“In gentle of present developments and accusations in opposition to Ozy, [Müffelmann] has determined and knowledgeable the CEO of Ozy yesterday that he [is stepping] down from this operate”, the corporate stated.

One other early investor, Laurene Powell Jobs’ organisation, the Emerson Collective, equally sought to distance itself from the corporate this week. “Emerson didn’t take part in Ozy’s newest funding spherical and has not served on its board since 2019”, the corporate stated.

Extra reporting by Alistair Grey in London and Miles Kruppa in San Francisco

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