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Ozy Media, a digital media company whose co-founder poses as a YouTube executive in a bid to raise $ 40 million from Goldman Sachs, said it was closing, dropping the curtain on a enterprise that promised to suspend the news and entertainment industry.
The decision, announced Friday night, comes five days after The New York Times reported details on the imitation incident and raised questions about Ozy Media’s business model and audience size.
At Ozy, we are blessed with a remarkable team of dedicated staff. “Many of them are world-class journalists and experienced professionals to whom we are indebted and who are wonderful colleagues,” the company’s board said in a statement.
“So it’s with the biggest hearts that we have to announce today that we are closing Ozy’s doors,” he added.
Ozy conceded to the imitation incident and attributed it to a ‘mental health episode’ experienced by co-founder Samir Rao. The New York Times also questions Ozy’s claim in 2019 that it reached 50 million unique users per month, comparing it to data from ComScore, which measures online engagement, with figures at a fraction of that level.
Carlos Watson, CEO, co-founder and public face of Ozy Media, disputed the NYT report, claiming it was inaccurate. In a memorandum to Ozy Media staff this week, Watson said that the statistics used by the New York Times were outdated and that it could not capture the audience of his business on multiple platforms.
Despite Watson’s efforts to defend Ozy Media, which has attracted a large number of executives and media contributions over the years, several top contributors have left for the New York Times revelations.
Former BBC journalist Katty Kay has resigned amid allegations she calls “serious and worrying”.
Hedge fund manager and Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry retired after only three weeks as chairman of the board, though he said he would remain an investor in the company on Thursday.
Ozy identified itself in 2013 as one of a burgeoning group of digital media companies, such as Vice and BuzzFeed, which at the time attracted billions of dollars from investors for their power with young people.
The company, named after Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias”, drew early funds from Axel Springer in 2014, which valued the group at $ 120 million. In total, the company has raised more than $ 80 million in business financing since its inception, according to PitchBook data.
Earlier Friday, before Ozy announced its closure, Axel Springer said he had not held a board seat since 2019, but that a company CEO, Jens Müffelmann, had attended observation meetings.
“In light of current developments and accusations against Ozy, [Müffelmann] the CEO of Ozy decided yesterday and announced that he [is stepping] from this function ”, the company said.
Another early investor, the organization of Laurene Powell Jobs, the Emerson Collective, also wanted to distance itself from the business this week. “Emerson did not participate in Ozy’s latest investment round and has not served on the board since 2019,” the company said.
Additional reporting by Alistair Gray in London and Miles Kruppa in San Francisco