Just hours after Carlos Watson claimed he was relaunching his disgraced digital-media venture Ozy Media on Monday, many former staffers tell TheWrap they will definitely not be returning.
“There does not appear to be a plan. Carlos has gone completely rogue,” one former staffer said. “The entire editorial staff is done with him — who would possibly go back? Who the hell is going to want to go on ‘The Carlos Watson Show’ now?”
“We are all sick of the roller coaster,” another former employee said.
In a “Today” appearance and subsequent interview, Watson said Ozy newsletters will hit people’s inboxes by the end of this week and that at least one or two of the shows and a new podcast would be released in coming months. The company also hopes to mount live events as early as next year.
But Watson did not provide any further details on how he’s going to relaunch a company that his board abruptly shut down last Friday — just days after a devastating New York Times exposé and subsequent revelations about the company’s business practices forced investors, top employees and others to distance themselves.
Eugene Robinson, a former editor at large at Ozy who was one of the company’s first hires, said that Watson was “nuts” to try to relaunch after doing irreparable harm to his own company. “The brand is damaged beyond repair and the name never made sense,” Robinson told TheWrap. “I’d launch again with a lot of the same staff sans Watson and Rao and rebrand. But I think that golden goose is dead.”
On Monday, Watson claimed that he had begun reaching out to Ozy staffers. “Anyone who wants to come back, I’m going to be excited about that and will have those conversations this week and try to make work,” he told Axios. Additionally, Watson said he is on the hunt for new directors to add to the board, which now consists of himself and investor Michael Moe.
Watson did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
But Ozy employees lost access to email and Slack immediately after a Friday Zoom meeting in which Watson announced the company’s shuttering; some said they received their final paychecks the day before.
Most were blindsided by the rapid fall, as they are now at the sudden plan to relaunch. Many told TheWrap they have no plans to return to Ozy, or its next iteration, and have lost trust in Ozy’s leaders.
A third former Ozy employee noted how the staff seemed an afterthought in Watson’s public appeal to remain open. “Considering that the staff wasn’t told we weren’t closing, and his statement [on Monday] talked only about advertisers, investors and viewers, I am definitely not returning,” this person said. “I’m also just disillusioned with the company. I don’t see how it would work.”
At least one former staffer would consider returning with the promise of a return bonus. “So many of us live paycheck to paycheck,” this individual said. “If you can’t afford to pay your bills, how can you say no? Not everyone has the luxury of turning down a paycheck so they can focus on a job search.”
On Friday, Ozy closed up shop after a Times report accused the company of inflating its audience metrics and made false claims to partners, investors and guests on its shows. The company also launched an investigation into COO Samir Rao, who was placed on leave after he impersonated a Google executive on an investor call. In less than a week, the company collapsed as more information about its business practices came to light.