Media maven Oprah Winfrey sold a quarter of her shares of Weight Watchers in early March, according to reports, making a substantial profit over what she initially paid for them.
Winfrey became a spokesperson for Weight Watchers in 2015, and initially, she purchased about 10% of the company, with an option to buy another 5 percent at a future date for a price tag of $6.97 per share, according to USA Today. She exercised that option in early 2018, buying an additional 1.4 million shares before selling a hefty portion, making almost nine times the amount she paid for them.
Winfrey’s shares of Weight Watchers sold for a range of $58.29 to $63.94 over the course of several days.
The mogul sold the shares to diversify her portfolio and to donate a portion to charity. She is retaining more than 75% of her stake in the company, according to a report from CNN.
"I am deeply committed to Weight Watchers and continue to see a bright future for the company," she said in a statement. She also announced that she wouldn’t be selling any more shares this year.
Weight Watchers has had a resurgence of popularity the past two years, attracting more customers to its point-based program, thanks in part to Winfrey’s endorsement.
The company has seen its stock price rise and fall with Winfrey’s strategic moves. It was struggling when Winfrey bought her 10% stake and became a board member in 2015. When she gave a moving speech at this year’s Golden Globe Awards ceremony, people speculated that she might run for office, which caused Weight Watcher’s stock to jump 13%.
Now, Weight Watchers has pivoted to becoming an overall health and wellness company rather than just focusing on dieting, expanding its points-based system to include healthy eating and exercise goals. The company also made changes to its technology and process, offering check-ins with a weight loss coach, an app for tracking your goals online (rather than at centers), or a combination of the two for those who wanted the choice.
The company also announced recently that it would be offering free services to teenagers, to teach the benefits of healthy eating and exercise before they reach adulthood. This move has been controversial, with some experts saying that it encourages young people to start dieting early. They also claim it emphasizes weight loss for a population of young people that is already dealing with an increase in eating disorders, which is the wrong strategy and approach.
Weight Watchers stock was not negatively affected by the news of Winfrey’s sale. In fact, shares went up as much as 7.8% after the news broke, according to Bloomberg.