The Troubling Case of Carlos Watson
"Nearly a decade ago, after graduating from Harvard and Stanford and building a career in business (McKinsey and Goldman) and then media (CNN, CNBC), I moved from NY back to the Bay Area to take care of my ailing mom. In doing so, with her encouragement and help, I started an innovative news and information company called OZY. "

We focused on not only catching our smart audience up each day, but vaulting them ahead by profiling "the new and the next." We started with sharp daily newsletters and ultimately evolved to produce top tier tv programs (for Hulu, Amazon, PBS and others), leading podcasts (with iHeart, BBC and Apple) and one of the best festivals in the world (OZY Fest -- described as "TED meets Coachella").

As you know, we won an Emmy in 2020 and secured nearly $250M in contracts across more than 100 advertising clients including Coke, Target and Walmart. We built a very real and valuable business. You can get a sense of OZY at our curated site,

Success, But Then Trouble

In the fall of 2019, as OZY truly began to take off, a former competitor named Ben Smith and his colleagues tried and failed to buy us at BuzzFeed -- offering $170M, then $225M and ultimately $250M+.

When his boss (CEO Jonah Peretti) offered to make me the President of BuzzFeed and hence Ben's boss, Ben quit abruptly after 8.5 years and ultimately moved to the NYT. There, 18 months later in September 2021, with OZY fully ascending and on the verge of surpassing BuzzFeed (which he somehow still had stock options in), a conflicted Smith wrote a series of hit pieces that nearly took the company under.

Thankfully with the support of a handful of terrific women, we kept the company going and rebuilt it through late 2021, all of 2022 and into early 2023-- launching fresh new newsletters, tv shows, and podcasts and announcing our latest festival. We also won new business with Coke, DoorDash, P&G, IPG and others. Indeed, in late February of this year, we were on the verge of a meaningful comeback, when federal prosecutors on the other side of the country -- in Brooklyn where Smith and BuzzFeed are based rather than in CA where I live and had offices -- indicted me and the company (a rarity -- indeed even Theranos, Enron and FTX were never indicted).

My name was smeared aggressively by the three white prosecutors in the case and their office. And as you well know, I found myself in an incredibly difficult place this spring.

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Harvard Law Professor Ron Sullivan Jr.

Thankfully, a former instructor of mine from Harvard connected me to one of the best innocence lawyers in the country, Harvard Law Professor Ron Sullivan. Ron has been credited with overturning more wrongful convictions than perhaps any lawyer in history.

Entrepreneuring While Black

I realize that even in 2023, white collar racism is a tough issue to get some people to confront honestly since it does not fit narratives that they are used to discussing. 

Along with my family and nearly 1000 OZY team members, I built a special company over the course of a decade, and that, while we made mistakes, I do not believe we committed crimes. 

Indeed, I do not believe if I were white we'd be talking about a criminal case. For starters, please read -- "Vice was built on a bluff".  Sadly, I believe my case is another unfortunate example of "Entrepreneuring while Black" where Black entrepreneurs and business leaders who start to consistently win in mainstream spaces suddenly see our "mistakes" portrayed as "crimes" and find ourselves under review and selectively prosecuted.

Here are just a few examples:  Joseph Jett (Wall Street).  Calvin Grigsby (Banking).  Frankling Raines (First Black Fortune 500 CEO).  Stan O'Neal (Wall Street).  Victor MacFarlane (Real Estate).  Robert Smith (Private Equity).  Arthur Hayes (Crypto).  And on and on.  Sadly there are so many more.  Ron wrote about it here --  What Is It About A Successful Black Entrepreneur that So Threatens the Establishment.

The Long View

While I am not the first to be so attacked, I want to both clear my name and help change things so that other younger Black entrepreneurs do not go through the same craziness that I am enduring.  My family and I put our entire life savings into the company (more than $5M), double and triple mortgaged our homes, borrowed from friends and family and are now living day to day.  But we will persist both for my sake and the sake of others.