On Monday, well-known philanthropist Oprah Winfrey bought a 10 percent stake in the weight management program Weight Watchers and earned $70 million in one day.The company’s stock has been sinking for years, but after the news broke that Oprah was weighing in, the stoke doubled in a single day of trading.
Yes, just the word that Oprah took a 10 percent stake in the company caused the stock to more than double to $13.62 a share. Oprah bought 6.4 million shares and was awarded options to purchase 3.5 million more, USA Today reports. Her effect on the stock shows just how much her name still carries with consumers and investors.
So Oprah was a big winner from the start, making $70 million, but that’s probably not much to her. According to Forbes, her worth is estimated at $3.1 billion.
While Oprah was a huge winner due to the announcement, she was not the largest. Artal, a private investment firm, owns half of the company’s shares equaling 29.4 million. That means the investment firm earned $209.9 million in one day.
Oprah’s stock deal with the company is just part of a general collaboration agreement involving the promotion of the company and its programs for five years. “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,” Oprah said in a statement. “I believe in the program so much I decided to invest in the company and partner in its evolution.”
— Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) October 19, 2015
Oprah lending her name to the company will put the spotlight back on Weight Watchers, which has been shadowed by other weight-loss programs in recent years. And some experts think this is great. “This is a nation with a tremendous problem with weight,” says Leslie Bonci, nutritionist and owner of Active Eating Advice. “Maybe this will put a little bit more interest in [weight loss] because Oprah said so.”
Of course, some disagree. Director of the Yale Griffin Prevention Research Center David Katz says people should use caution when making Oprah their role model for weight loss. “I love Oprah…[but] she is clearly not a weight management expert,” says Katz. “She struggles with her weight…her interest may not mean anything more than this is the latest thing she tried.”
Oprah has publicly struggled with her weight over the years. She lost 67 pounds on the Optifast diet, but gained it back very quickly. “It is a lifelong struggle for people…not everyone is successful,” Bonci said. “She has been very public and she shared her successes and she also shared her failures … I think this is a message of hope.”
Though I see where Katz is coming from, Bonci is right. Weight loss is a struggle. Maybe people want to see a person who has struggled with her weight for a long time succeed or decide that giving up is not an option.
Unlike some weight loss programs, Weight Watchers runs on a point system focused on long-term changes in one’s diet, according to Today. The 51-year-old program does not emphasize “miracle” foods or fasting. Katz calls the program a “reasonable, solid” one that places a “greater emphasis on health and not weight loss.” “I have always argued we should be focusing on overall health,” Katz said.
In the announcement, Weight Watchers CEO Jim Chambers said Winfrey’s involvement in the company is part of a larger effort. “We are expanding our purpose from focusing on weight loss alone to more broadly helping people lead a healthier, happier life,” Chambers said. Ah, how Oprah-like.