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June 15, 2024

Google CEO Sundar Pichai Denies $600 Million Offer at Ozy Media TrialGoogle CEO Sundar Pichai Denies $600 Million Offer at Ozy Media Trial

Alphabet Inc.’s Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai testified at the fraud trial of Ozy Media Inc. co-founder Carlos Watson, firmly stating that Google never intended to purchase the media startup for any amount of money. This revelation comes amidst accusations that Watson defrauded investors by fabricating tales of Ozy’s business success, including a false claim that Google offered to buy the company for “hundreds of millions of dollars.”

The trial revolves around Watson’s alleged deception, including the audacious act of impersonation by Ozy’s Chief Operating Officer Samir Rao. Rao, who has pleaded guilty, admitted to posing as a senior executive at Google’s YouTube in a February 2021 call with Goldman Sachs bankers, falsely praising Ozy to secure investment. This ruse was part of a broader scheme to convince investors of Ozy’s profitability.

In his testimony at the Brooklyn federal court, Pichai clarified that no discussions regarding an acquisition of Ozy ever took place. However, Google did consider hiring Watson to lead its news programming, which could have included a $25 million investment in Ozy to facilitate this transition. Pichai’s assertion came in response to prosecutor Dylan Stern’s direct question about the supposed $600 million offer. “No,” Pichai confirmed.

Prosecutor Stern elaborated on Watson’s tactics in his opening statement, detailing how Watson used the fictitious Google offer to lure another investor after the failed Goldman Sachs deal. Watson allegedly exploited this falsehood to secure a $20 million investment by claiming that Pichai had personally offered to purchase Ozy for a substantial sum. Stern emphasized that Watson’s actions were deliberate and deceitful, designed to mislead investors.

Despite Watson’s claimed close relationship with Pichai, the Google CEO revealed they only had two brief interactions. The first was a brief exchange at a conference, and the second was Watson’s job interview on February 25, 2021, shortly after the deceptive call with Goldman Sachs.

Further damning testimony came from Hillel Moerman, one of the Goldman bankers on the call when Rao impersonated YouTube executive Alex Piper. Moerman described the experience as one of the most unsettling of his career, noting the unnatural depth of Rao’s voice. He and his colleague, Allison Berardo, were immediately suspicious. Berardo testified that the voice did not sound human, leading them to cancel the planned $35 million investment in Ozy shortly after the call.

Ozy’s chief of staff, Suzee Han, who has also pleaded guilty and is cooperating with prosecutors, admitted to fabricating the company’s performance metrics. “We, and I mean Carlos, lied about how the company was doing,” Han confessed. She detailed the extent of the deception, revealing that both past performance and future prospects were grossly misrepresented to investors.

The trial sheds light on the elaborate lengths to which Watson and his associates went to secure investment for Ozy Media. The false impersonation of a YouTube executive, combined with the fabricated Google acquisition offer, underscores the severity of the fraud perpetrated against investors. As the trial continues, more details are likely to emerge, further illustrating the extent of the deception and its impact on those who were misled.

Read more Business related news on R9 News
Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri

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