On Wednesday, November 10, Carlos Watson, the embattled founder and C.E.O. of Ozy Media, told me that he was flying from his home in Mountain View, California, down to Los Angeles, where I was staying, to see me. Carlos wanted to have lunch at the house I had been renting for a few weeks in the Hollywood Hills, and to discuss his current predicament, which can best be described as a near-constant state of chaos ever since Ben Smith, the well-respected and intrepid New York Times media columnist, dropped a bombshell report about the company in late September. The only ground rules for the on-the-record conversation related to the kind of sandwich that I was buying him for lunch from Joan’s on Third, L.A.’s version of Dean & Deluca—a highly curated, overpriced boulangerie. “No roast beef,” Watson texted after I presented him with Joan’s lunch menu. “Turkey club.” And then in all caps, “NO MAYO.”
This was a very important point, apparently, and one reiterated to me by Kate Bohner, Watson’s new public relations adviser. (Watson hired Kate after first hiring Phil Singer, a former Clinton aide whom Smith had originally described in his piece a few weeks earlier as his “new public relations adviser.”) I’ve known Kate for 30 years. We both worked at Lazard, the tony investment bank, in the early 1990s. I was a banking associate; she was a two-year banking analyst, fresh out of the University of Pennsylvania. This was well before her brief marriage to Michael Lewis, a friend and former colleague, and her longer career as a journalist at Forbes, at CNBC, and as an E-Trade television anchor. Kate told me she was the one who recommended to Carlos that he speak to me amid the ongoing fallout from the Smith article. Maybe there was an alternative narrative that was worth exploring, she suggested.
“Any sandwich will be fine,” Kate texted me, “except and this is a big except—no Mayo! He told me Mayo is the only thing that will kill him.”