Ozy Media co-founder and chief executive Carlos Watson has resigned from NPR’s board of directors, the public radio organization said Friday.
“Mr. Watson’s resignation is effective today,” NPR Chairman of the Board of Directors, LaFontaine E. Oliver, said in a statement.
The resignation came five days after The New York Times published an article by media columnist Ben Smith asking questions about Ozy’s business practices, including an incident in which an executive apparently impersonated a YouTube executive while Ozy was trying to raise money.
Mr Watson joined the board of NPR . in 2016, and was elected to a new three-year term in September. The board’s governance committee was set to meet on Friday to discuss Mr Watson’s position, NPR reported.
On Thursday, The Times published another report from Mr. Smith that Ozy had hired a team last year to create a talk show for the cable network A&E – “The Carlos Watson Show,” hosted by Mr. Watson. Guests were told the show would air on A&E, and the show’s executive producer was told it would premiere in August 2020 in primetime.
The problem: A&E said there was no such deal. The executive producer resigned after finding out, writing to Ozy’s leaders: “You are playing a dangerous game with the truth. The consequences of offering an A&E show to guests if we don’t have one will be catastrophic for Ozy and for me.”
Here’s what we know about the unrest at Ozy.
Mr Watson said the show was produced for A&E and then for YouTube Originals. Neither has happened.
When the executive producer, Brad Bessey, resigned, he told the show’s staff that the program would not, in fact, be shown on A&E. Mr. Watson then told the people on the Zoom call that “The Carlos Watson Show” would eventually end on A&E, according to Mr. Bessey and another person on the call. Until then, Mr. Watson added, the show would appear on YouTube as part of the YouTube Originals, a series of programs created by professional studios and paid for by YouTube.
“The Carlos Watson Show” eventually appeared on Ozy.com and on YouTube, although not as a YouTube Original. A YouTube official confirmed that the show was not a YouTube Original. Mr Watson and an Ozy spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.
read more about the proposed A&E show →
Ozy’s chairman of the board of directors has resigned.
Marc Lasry, the chairman of Ozy’s board of directors and a hedge fund manager who also co-owns the Milwaukee Bucks, resigned Thursday, four days after The Times reported that during a conference call someone from Ozy appeared to have impersonated YouTube executive with Goldman Sachs bankers as the company tried to raise $40 million.
“I believe that in the future Ozy will require experience in areas such as crisis management and investigations, where I do not have specific expertise,” Mr Lasry said in an emailed statement. “That’s why I stepped down from the board of the company. I remain an investor in the company and wish it the best for the future.”
read more on Mr Lasry’s resignation →
Ozy lost a star anchor.
Katty Kay, who gave up her job as a BBC anchor and correspondent in June to join Ozy, said on Wednesday she had resigned. “The allegations in The New York Times that surprised me are serious and deeply disturbing, and I had no choice but to end my relationship with the company.”
read more about Mrs Kay’s resignation →
It also lost a major investor.
SV Angel, led by venture capitalist Ron Conway, informed Ozy on Tuesday that it is relinquishing the shares it acquired in the company in 2012, according to an SV Angel adviser. (Axios first reported that SV Angel gave up his shares.)
The board is investigating.
The board said Tuesday it had hired Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison, a major international company headquartered in New York, to review Ozy’s business. The board also said it had asked Samir Rao, Ozy’s chief operating officer and the person who apparently impersonated the YouTube executive, “to take leave pending the results of the investigation.”