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Oprah Winfrey still actively involved with Weight Watchers: CEO

Brian Sozzi

Media mogul and Weight Watchers board member Oprah Winfrey remains very active with the company, despite rumors on Wall Street to the contrary.

“That’s so interesting to me because she has been so involved not just as a board member, but certainly as a strategic partner to me,” WW Inc. CEO Mindy Grossman told Yahoo Finance when asked about fresh concerns on Wall Street that Winfrey was starting to focus on her other business interests. “We just launched the largest global marketing campaign in the company’s history and she is prominently featured in that campaign.”

It’s not difficult to see why Wall Street would be concerned about the ‘Oprah Effect’ becoming less prominent at WW Inc., which was formerly known as Weight Watchers International.

Winfrey is arguably WW’s most important spokesperson. Since joining WW Inc.’s board in October 2015 and taking a 10% stake in the company, Winfrey has promoted various initiatives via her enormous Twitter following and on TV. Winfrey’s star power has helped drive new subscribers and power WW Inc.’s stock to a record high of more than $100 in early July 2018.

But, Winfrey unloaded some 2 million shares in March 2018. That brought her stake in the company to about 8%, or 5.4 million shares. Further, WW Inc. has signed other brand ambassadors recently such as movie star Kate Hudson and musician DJ Khaled.

Oprah Winfrey waves the audience during a tribute to Nelson Mandela and promoting gender equality event at University of Johannesburg in Soweto, South Africa, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

The happenings have ignited rumors among some investors that Winfrey — whose contract with WW runs until 2020 — is stepping back and could ultimately divest her entire stake. WW shares are now trading at $37.

Added Grossman, “Oprah truly believes in our mission and what we are doing.”

Grossman said WW remains on track to reach a goal of $2 billion in annual sales by the end of 2020. To get there, Grossman’s team has repositioned the 55-year weight loss brand as a health and wellness play. That has ushered in the new WW Inc. branding, new digital programs, and fresh partnerships such as one with meal-kit service Blue Apron.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @BrianSozzi

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