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Photo courtesy of OZY Media

Marc Lasry, the billionaire businessman and co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, has been named chairman of OZY Media, the digital-first media and entertainment company founded in 2013 by CEO Carlos Watson.

Why it matters: Lasry, who currently serves on OZY's board and is an investor in the company, wants to help the company strike deals that will help it grow.

  • Lasry is known for his ability to grow franchises. His investment in the Bucks has doubled since he first took a co-ownership stake in the team in 2014.

Details: Lasry's main responsibilities as chairman will be to help guide OZY's strategic planning, bring in top-tier talent and advise the company with large partnerships, including mergers and acquisitions.

  • "It's important to have someone who has the sophistication working with high growth companies," says Watson. "From the very beginning, Marc been very hands-on and helpful ... He's not just a figure head. He's helping us build something really special."
  • Lasry, who currently serves as the chairman, chief executive officer and a co-founder of the investment firm Avenue Capital Group, says he initially invested in the company after getting to know Watson personally, but now wants to help take the brand to the next level.
  • He intends to help the company grow its investor base, as well as use his existing relationships with firms like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to help the company do more deals.
  • "One of the things we are very focused on is growth and we think one of the ways we will do that is growing internally, and another is growing externally," he said.

When it comes to deals, Lasry says "you'll see a bunch of acquisitions over the course of the next year depending on price," he said.

  • He says deals are being eyed across content verticals and platforms. The team could look to acquire small niche podcasts, newsletters or even festivals that it could rebrand and grow under the OZY umbrella.
  • OZY's business model revolves around telling original stories via high-quality digital content and then licensing and scaling that content to different mediums, including TV and podcasts.
  • The company currently has 25 million email subscribers across five email newsletters. Its hit YouTube series, "The Carlos Watson Show," is one of the fastest-growing talk programs on the platform.

The big picture: OZY is coming off of a year of record revenue and audience growth, which has helped it attract top talent.

  • In May, the company hired longtime BBC News anchor and correspondent Katty Kay as senior editor and executive producer. The company plans to launch four new TV shows this fall.
  • The company has struck several big advertising and content partnerships with major holding groups like WPP and Dentsu, and major brands, like Walmart.

Bottom line: "Over the course of the last couple of years things, couldn't have been better," Lasry said. Watson, who notes that he and Lasry met playing ping-pong two and a half years ago, says that Lasry is the perfect person to harness all of OZY's progress to take the brand to the next level.

Go deeper

Dec 14, 2021 - Economy & Business

"Scale matters": Vox, Group Nine CEOs tout new deal

Combination images of Group 9 Media CEO Ben Lerer (L) and Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff. Photo: Rita Quinn/Getty Images for SXSW; Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

The newly announced merger between Vox Media and Group Nine Media will create "the fastest-growing company of scale in media," Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff told Axios.

Why it matters: The deal "officially takes us out of startup mode," said Group Nine founder and CEO Ben Lerer, who will join the new company's board.

Dec 14, 2021 - Economy & Business

Exclusive: Graydon Carter's Air Mail raises $17 million

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Air Mail, the subscription-based digital magazine company launched by former Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, has raised a $17 million series B funding round, Carter tells Axios.

Why it matters: The money will be used to fuel Air Mail's expansion into new editorial verticals and product lines, including podcasts and a book imprint.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to actually deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.