Oprah Winfrey’s Weight Watchers investment plunges $58 million


The company, now officially called WW, is also partnering with Blue Apron to deliver plan-approved meals to your home.

Concerns about a slowdown in membership growth for Weight Watchers International delivered a huge blow to Oprah Winfrey’s investment in the dieting and wellness company.

Winfrey, who owns about 8 percent of Weight Watchers, lost nearly $58 million on paper Wednesday morning as the company’s stock plunged.

Weight Watchers shares fell 36.1 percent in early trading Wednesday to $18.90 after the company reported Tuesday that it was “disappointed with our start to 2019.” The beginning of the year is the most crucial time for healthy living ventures.

The company rebranded as WW in 2018 with Winfrey’s blessing, aiming to ride a wave of interest in wellness and natural ingredients. But the pivot away from a clear focus on weight loss may be sputtering. 

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Fourth-quarter net income fell 30.5 percent to $43.8 million. Subscribers at the end of the fourth quarter totaled 3.9 million, up 22.4 percent from a year earlier.

But WW CEO Mindy Grossman said in a statement that the company has had “a soft start to 2019 versus last year’s strong performance” since its early-year recruitment period did not go well.

To regain momentum, Winfrey has personally agreed to “play a central role in our upcoming TV and digital marketing campaign,” Grossman said.

Oprah sells shares: Winfrey books profit on Weight Watchers stock

Weight Watchers rebrands: New brand is WW in focus on wellness

Winfrey first invested in Weight Watchers in 2015, acquiring 10 percent of the company for $6.79 per share.

While her shares remain nearly three times their original value at the time she invested, the stock is off 82 percent from its 52-week high of $105.73. Winfrey offloaded some shares in March for a range of $58.29 to $63.94, booking a healthy profit.

For Weight Watchers, the disappointing performance could draw “significant investor pushback and possible activist pressure,” CFRA Research stock analyst Garrett Nelson wrote Wednesday.

Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.

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