Billionaire media mogul Oprah Winfrey has acquired a 10% stake in Weight Watchers International, sending the dieting company’s stock soaring Monday after a prolonged slump.
Winfrey, who is also getting options to acquire an additional 5% stake, is joining the Weight Watchers board after a positive personal experience with the company’s weight-loss program.
Weight Watchers (WTW) concurrently announced an expansion of its brand beyond a pure focus on weight loss to a general emphasis on healthier, happier living.
Investors flocked to Weight Watchers shares in the wake of the news, sending the stock up more than 100% to $13.67 at 1:35 p.m. Monday. The surge indicates that investors believe the mass migration away from the company’s weight-loss program will finally come to an end.
The company’s stock had lost 72% of its value this year before the news was publicized.
“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.”
Winfrey bought her shares at $6.79 apiece for a total investment of $43.2 million, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.
Analysts expect Winfrey to use the considerable influence of her brand and media presence — including her well-known knack for promoting health-related initiatives — to drive interest in Weight Watchers meetings and products.
The TV host, actor, producer and publisher “will not just bring attention to the stock, but will accelerate sales and profit recoveries” as Weight Watchers benefits from “free publicity and media savvy,” S&P Capital IQ analyst Efraim Levy said in a research note.
In addition to her role as a board member, Winfrey, who has long shown an interest in health issues and dieting programs, will serve as an adviser to the company.
“Through our conversations, it became clear that there is tremendous alignment between Oprah’s intention and our mission,” Weight Watchers CEO Jim Chambers said in a statement. “We believe that her remarkable ability to connect and inspire people to realize their full potential is uniquely complementary to our powerful community, extraordinary coaches and proven approach.”