Oprah Winfrey goes on diet, gains Weight Watchers deal


Associated Press

NEW YORK

Oprah Winfrey, who has struggled publicly with her weight for decades, is going on a diet again. But this time, she stands to gain a lot of money from her efforts.

Weight Watchers said Monday that it signed a five-year deal with the former talk-show host. Winfrey, a co-owner of OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, is paying about $43.2 million for a 10 percent stake in the weight-loss company.

The deal already is paying off: Weight Watchers shares more than doubled after the partnership was announced, earning Winfrey about $45 million on paper.

Winfrey will use the Weight Watchers mobile app and work with a personal coach, the company said. She also has agreed to let Weight Watchers use her name, image and likeness for its products and services. Additionally, she will make appearances on the company’s behalf.

“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,” Winfrey said in a statement. “I believe in the program so much I decided to invest in the company and partner in its evolution.”

Weight Watchers is no stranger to celebrities. It has paid singers Jessica Simpson and Jennifer Hudson to promote its plan. But the deal with Winfrey is a shift to focus on overall health and wellness, rather than just dropping pounds.

“We are expanding our purpose from focusing on weight loss alone to more broadly helping people lead a healthier, happier life,” Weight Watchers President and CEO Jim Chambers said in a statement.

The company has been hurt by the popularity of fitness trackers and other health apps. MyFitnessPal lets users track steps, workouts and the amount of calories they eat for free on its app. Buying a FitBit tracker unlocks similar free online tools. Weight Watchers charges for its online food tracking, and weekly meetings and weigh-ins have been a hallmark of its plan. Its shares were down 73 percent for the year through Friday. The company’s earnings have fallen every year since 2011. To boost its earnings, the company announced $100 million in cost cuts earlier this year.

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