Former BBC anchor Katty Kay, one of the biggest names at Ozy Media, announced Wednesday she had resigned from the media company over “deeply troubling allegations” in the New York Times that the company was exaggerating audience numbers and that one of its leaders impersonated a YouTube exec during a business meeting with investors.
The British anchor, who left a decades-long career at the BBC for a spot at Ozy earlier this year, announced she resigned on Twitter Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the Ozy Media board announced it had hired an outside firm to “conduct a review of the company’s business activities,” and asked COO Samir Rao, who had allegedly impersonated the YouTube official, to step away from the company during the investigation.
According to a bombshell column published this week in the New York Times, Rao impersonated a YouTube executive and praised Ozy during a business meeting with Goldman Sachs investors, who were considering dropping $40 million into the growing company. CEO Carlos Watson, a former MSNBC anchor, told the New York Times Rao was experiencing a mental health crisis. The column also outlined allegations that Ozy’s official audience traffic is far smaller than it reports publicly. Watson denied the media company’s figures are inaccurate, writing in an email to the New York Times that Ozy’s growth “has been completely real.” Ozy was founded in 2013 and is based in Mountain View, California.
In July 2019, the company’s “Ozy Fest,” advertised to be a multi-day event with celebrity-packed speeches, panels and entertainment at The Great Lawn in New York’s Central Park was abruptly cancelled over a heat wave. According to a Forbes investigation, the heat wave was a lucky break for the company, with one employee involved in planning the festival saying the event “was going to be Fyre Fest.” Ozy Media exaggerated the event’s celebrity bookings, inflated ticket sales and listed sponsors who never agreed to take part in the event, according to Forbes. Because the heat wave cancellation came after New York Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered large, outdoor events be cancelled amid a heat wave, Ozy Media was able to claim its losses on insurance and actually benefitted from the cancellation, sources told Forbes.