The CEO of Ozy Media has declared that the beleaguered company is back from the dead despite announcing it was shutting down for good last week.
On Friday, Ozy abruptly announced its closure five days after a New York Times exposé suggested the company was built on deception. But CEO Carlos Watson has had a dramatic change of heart over the weekend, telling the Today show Monday that Ozy isn’t going anywhere.
“We’re going to open for business, so we’re making news today,” he said. “This is our Lazarus moment, if you will, this is our Tylenol moment. Last week was traumatic, it was difficult, heartbreaking in many ways.”
The digital-media startup rapidly fell apart last week after the Times reported that Chief Operating Officer Samir Rao impersonated a YouTube executive during a fundraising call with Goldman Sachs.
Asked about that call, Watson commented: “I don’t know. I wasn’t there.” He then added: “Look—it’s heartbreaking, it’s wrong, it’s not good, it’s not OK... I love Goldman, I worked there, I’ve got a lot of friends there.”
The Times report was swiftly followed by others exposing the company’s seemingly misleading marketing, fundraising, and traffic-boosting tactics. Then, other outlets reported allegations from staff that bosses presided over an abusive work environment that included 18-hour days. Then, on Friday, Ozy sent out its announcement that it was shutting down.
“At the end of the week, we did suspend operations with a plan to wind down,” Watson explained Monday. “And as we spent time over the weekend we talked to advertising partners, we talked to some of our readers, some of our viewers, our listeners, our investors.”
The CEO added: “I think Ozy is part of this moment, and it’s not going to be easy, and I think what we do with newsletters, what we do with TV shows, original TV shows, podcasts and more, I think has a place.”
However, Watson didn’t explain how he plans to continue operations, and it’s not clear if the company’s staff will return. Ozy’s bosses claimed to Axios earlier this year that the company employed 75 people full time and they were all told last week that their jobs would no longer exist.
Billionaire investor Marc Lasry resigned as the chair of Ozy Media, and former BBC News anchor Katty Kay also announced that she was quitting, writing that the allegations against Ozy “caught [her] by surprise.”
Watson went on to complain about the coverage of his scandal-hit company but didn’t deny any of the specific allegations against Ozy.
“The last couple of days gave a lot of people a chance to take cheap shots,” he said. “That’s not to say that there aren’t things that we can do better. We need to do better on data, we need to do better on marketing, I think there’s some things we can do better on leadership and culture.”