Ozy Media showed up on the Barometer’s radar after a bizarre story appeared on September 30, 2021. Ozy Media has been around on the Internet since 2013. Ozy had the usual podcasts, interviews. and some YouTube documentaries. The story was that an Ozy Media executive, Samir Rao (co-founder and COO) posed as a YouTube executive during a conference call with Goldman Sachs. Goldman was considering a $40-million investment in the company. The role of the YouTube executive, fake though he may have been, was to verify Ozy’s presence and hits on social media.
Goldman thought the executive’s voice sounded digitally altered and, showing surprisingly good judgment, opted not to go with an investment in the company. Tip to Goldman — Go with Zoom meetings rather than just a phone call. You can match the face with online photos (hopefully).
When the story of the stolen-identity-to-dupe-investors scam surfaced, Ozy lost Katty Kay, one of its podcasters and a three-decade BBC journalists. She referred to the scam as “serous and deeply troubling.” Ozy media attributed the behavior of Mr. Rao to a “mental health crisis.” Following the call, Mr. Rao took some time off. Ozy”s CEO and the other co-founder, Carlos Watson, said he was “proud” to have “stood by” Mr. Rao, who has since returned to the office.
Mr. Watson pulled out as host of the News and Documentary Emmy Awards show for fear of distraction due to the Ozy issues. A major investor pulled out of Ozy and the Ozy board commissioned an investigation. Ozy closed its doors (pulled the plug? crashed its site?) on October 1. Quite a fall, but faking an identity to rope in an investment banker may not be the most effective business strategy. But, if failure is the goal, there was no better nor faster formula for self-destruction.