Oprah Winfrey Buys 10 Percent Stake in Weight Watchers, Joins Board


Oprah Winfrey Weight Watchers

Oprah Winfrey, one of the world’s most powerful women, has had her fluctuating weight studied many times since she got involved with the media.

Winfrey, of course, has done plenty to help other women build up their self-esteem. Now, she’s put herself into position to help even more people as the proud new owner of a 10 percent stake in Weight Watchers, the long-suffering 52-year-old institution.

Winfrey’s purchase of 6.5 million shares for around $43.2 million comes “after a positive personal experience with the company’s weight-loss program,” USA Today reports. In addition, Winfrey is joining the company’s board and has the option to buy another 5 percent stake.

“Weight Watchers has given me the tools to begin to make the lasting shift that I and so many of us who are struggling with weight have longed for,” said Winfrey, in a press release. “I believe in the program so much I decided to invest in the company and partner in its evolution.”

Winfrey’s involvement coincides with Weight Watchers’ announcement that it isn’t planning to focus so much on weight loss moving forward as it would like to put more emphasis on healthier and happier living. The two components led to investors feasting on Weight Watchers shares, sending the stock up 53 percent to $10.36 before the market even opened.

Weight Watchers is clearly hoping Winfrey’s influence can help its bottom line and Winfrey, while clearly interested in creating a new and thriving revenue stream, also has long been interested in helping women develop healthier lifestyles. The pair’s goals dovetail nicely. This move should help Weight Watchers combat the free weight-loss apps consumers have turned to along with such fitness devices as Fitbit and Jawbone rather than paying Weight Watchers’ subscription fees. The company’s stock has fallen more than 70 percent since the start of the year, about 90 percent below its 2011 peak.

According to Reuters, if Winfrey decides to bring her investment up to 15 percent, she will then be the second-largest investor behind Invus Public Equities Advisors, which had 51.5 percent stake to its name in June.

As Fortune notes, Winfrey has given plenty of other products the Oprah Bump, a lift in sales after she puts her seal of approval on it, simply by placing it on her annual “Favorite Things” list. Still, plenty of folks who are already involved with Weight Watchers weren’t overjoyed by the news as evidenced on the brand’s Facebook page.

People questioned whether she was a Weight Watchers user at all (and if she was, if she got special treatment) and worried that Winfrey’s face would be all over the brand’s products now instead of the everyday people the brand has always aimed to help. Weight Watchers’ social media team responded quickly, noting that Winfrey wasn’t being paid to be a brand ambassador, that she was a member, and that she received the same services as any other member.