Oprah Winfrey exits WeightWatchers board, shares plummet more than 25%


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Oprah Winfrey announced Wednesday that she will leave her role on the WeightWatchers board of directors, only two months after the talk show host publicly revealed she was taking a weight-loss medication.

Winfrey, who has for the last nine years been widely considered the face of WeightWatchers, joined the company’s board of directors in 2015. A press release from WeightWatchers said Winfrey, 70, decided not to stand for re-election.

The announcement of Winfrey’s departure sent WeightWatchers shares plummeting. During premarket trading on Thursday, shares in the weight-loss company plunged more than 25 per cent.

Winfrey pledged to donate her WeightWatchers stock to the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C. The talk-show mogul owns a 10 per cent stake in the company.

“I look forward to continuing to advise and collaborate with WeightWatchers and CEO Sima Sistani in elevating the conversation around recognizing obesity as a chronic condition, working to reduce stigma, and advocating for health equity,” Winfrey said in a statement.

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“Weight Health is a critically important topic and one that needs to be addressed at a broader scale. I plan to participate in a number of public forums and events where I will be a vocal advocate in advancing this conversation.”

The WeightWatchers board of directors said it is “supportive” of Winfrey’s decision to donate her stock in the company. The board wrote that Winfrey’s aim in donating her shares to NMAAHC is to “highlight the contributions of African Americans and to eliminate any perceived conflict of interest around her taking weight loss medications.”

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In December 2023, Winfrey told People magazine she was using an unnamed weight-loss drug as a “maintenance tool” for her fluctuating weight. The disclosure came after Winfrey’s social media followers speculated that the star may be taking Ozempic or another similar medication.

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Winfrey told People she made the decision to take a medication that induces weight loss after being “blamed and shamed” for her weight across her 25-year career.

“I realized I’d been blaming myself all these years for being overweight, and I have a predisposition that no amount of willpower is going to control,” she said. “Obesity is a disease. It’s not about willpower — it’s about the brain.”

Winfrey said she “released my own shame” and reached out to her doctor to inquire about medication options.

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“I now use it as I feel I need it, as a tool to manage not yo-yoing,” she said. “The fact that there’s a medically approved prescription for managing weight and staying healthier, in my lifetime, feels like relief, like redemption, like a gift, and not something to hide behind and once again be ridiculed for.”

Alongside her medication, Winfrey said she still uses the WeightWatchers point-counting methodology and drinks a gallon of water every day.

Thilo Semmelbauer, chairman of the WeightWatchers board, said Winfrey has been an “inspiring presence and passionate advocate” within the organization. He thanked Winfrey for her “energy, dedication, and for continuing to play a role as collaborator” with the brand.

Winfrey will donate her stock during the company’s upcoming trading window in March.

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WeightWatchers’ latest financial report on Wednesday showed a total loss of US$88.1 million in the company’s fourth quarter of 2023. WeightWatchers’ gross profit for the same quarter came in at US$124.9 million.

Revenue for the full 2023 fiscal year reached US$889.6 million, almost 15 per cent less than the year prior, the company reported.

Last year, WeightWatchers dipped its toe in the weight-loss drug game and purchased Sequence, a telehealth provider that offers users access to drugs used to treat diabetes and obesity, including Ozempic.

Due to popular demand, the manufacturers of several diabetes drugs, including Ozempic, have experienced shortages that have continued into 2024.

Click to play video: 'Ozempic shortage impact on Canadian patients with Type 2 diabetes'

Ozempic shortage impact on Canadian patients with Type 2 diabetes

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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