Katty Kay Resigns From Ozy Media Following NYT Report
Katty Kay, who had left the BBC for Ozy, resigned, and the A&E cable network canceled the broadcast of a documentary it had co-produced with the company.,
Ozy Media was facing pressure on multiple fronts days after The New York Times reported that a co-founder had apparently impersonated a YouTube executive during a conference call with Goldman Sachs in February.
Ozy lost one of its biggest stars, Katty Kay, a former BBC anchor and correspondent, who announced in a Twitter post on Wednesday that she had left the company. Ms. Kay wrote that she had handed in her resignation on Tuesday morning, adding that “the allegations in The New York Times, which caught me be surprise, are serious and deeply troubling and I had no choice but to end my relationship with the company.”
Ms. Kay had joined Ozy as a senior editor and executive producer in June, after nearly three decades at the BBC. Last year, while still employed by the British media organization, she started hosting a podcast, “When Katty Met Carlos,” with Ozy’s co-founder and chief executive, Carlos Watson.
On Monday, the A&E cable network canceled the broadcast of a documentary special hosted by Mr. Watson. The program, “Voices Magnified: Youth Digital Crisis,” was a co-production of Ozy and A&E and was scheduled to be shown on Monday at 10 p.m.
Billed as an examination of “how the digital world is impacting the mental health of America’s youth,” the episode was the second of a two-part limited series. The first, “Voices Magnified: Mental Health Crisis,” was broadcast on Sept. 20, with Mr. Watson hosting. An A&E spokeswoman confirmed that the second episode had been pulled.
In addition, Ozy has lost a key investor. SV Angel, led by the high-profile venture capitalist Ron Conway, informed Ozy on Tuesday that it was giving up the shares it had acquired in the company in 2012, according to an adviser to SV Angel. (Axios first reported that SV Angel was relinquishing its shares.)
Mr. Watson and an Ozy Media spokesperson did not reply to requests for comment.
Ozy debuted in 2013 and now has a general news website, newsletters on various subjects, podcasts, interview programs and documentaries, some of which have appeared on YouTube. The Times reported on Sunday that a top Ozy executive had apparently impersonated a YouTube executive during a conference call with Goldman Sachs as the bank was considering an investment of $40 million in the company.
On the call, the person posing as the YouTube executive said Ozy’s videos were a great success on YouTube. As he spoke, his voice sounded strange to people on the Goldman team, as if it had been digitally altered. The bank ended up not going through with the deal.
In an email to The Times last week, Mr. Watson said the person was Samir Rao, Ozy’s co-founder and chief operating officer. Mr. Watson attributed the episode to a mental health crisis. He said Mr. Rao had taken some time off after the conference call but had since returned to the company, which is based in Mountain View, Calif.
“I’m proud that we stood by him while he struggled, and we’re all glad to see him now thriving again,” Mr. Watson said.
Mr. Rao did not reply to requests for comment.
In its report, The Times also raised questions about claims Ozy made concerning the number of people who had visited its website or watched its online videos.
On Tuesday, Ozy’s board said it had hired Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison, a large international firm with headquarters in New York, to investigate the company’s “business activities” and its leadership team. In a statement announcing the investigation, the board also said it had asked Mr. Rao to take a leave of absence.
Also on Tuesday, Mr. Watson pulled out of his scheduled appearance as the host of an Emmys ceremony scheduled for Wednesday night to honor documentary filmmakers, part of the 42nd News and Documentary Emmy Awards. An Emmys spokesperson confirmed that Mr. Watson had asked to be removed as the host “so as not to distract the focus from the talented nominees in the documentary categories.”
Mr. Watson, a skilled networker who was an MSNBC anchor early in his career, has been the public face of Ozy since it started eight years ago. In addition to Mr. Conway, Ozy’s early investors included Laurene Powell Jobs, the founder of Emerson Collective, and David Drummond, the former chief legal officer at Google.