Oprah Winfrey, who owns about 8 percent of Weight Watchers, lost nearly $58 million on paper Wednesday morning as the company’s stock plunged.
As reported by USA Today, Weight Watchers shares fell 36.1 percent in early trading Wednesday to $18.90 after the company reported Tuesday that it was “disappointed with our start to 2019.”
“We had a soft start to 2019 versus last year’s strong performance with the launch of WW Freestyle … Given our Winter Campaign did not recruit as expected, we have been focused on improving member recruitment trends,” Chief Executive Officer Mindy Grossman said in a statement.
According to CNBC, Winfrey’s stake in the company was valued at $160.18 million when the markets closed Tuesday. Within minutes, it quickly dropped to $112.1 when the company released its earnings after the markets closed.
Winfrey still holds 5.4 million Weight Watchers shares, according to a January SEC filing.
Meanwhile, the media mogul has personally agreed to “play a central role in our upcoming TV and digital marketing campaign,” Grossman said.
Winfrey signed on as an investor, director and brand ambassador to the company in October 2015, but she stepped back from promoting the brand in recent months. Many have concluded that her absence has contributed to the company’s latest financial woes.
“Her presence has diminished,” ISS-EVA analyst Anthony Campagna told The Post. “It’s been a slow fade.”
And that could be because Winfrey is busy with other projects, including a her OWN network and a food line — O, That’s Good! — which some see as a WW competitor.
“WW’s products will compete with Oprah’s healthy living products,” Michael Stone, author of “The Power of Licensing,” told The Post. “She promotes it as healthy food, not diet food, which is the message that WW is trying to promote with its licensed products.”
But WW Chief Executive Mindy Grossman said on an earnings call on Wednesday that “Oprah will play a central role in our spring marketing.”
“What occurs to me is that [WW] can’t be successful without Oprah,” said D.A. Davidson analyst Linda Bolton Weiser. “This is what investors are worried about — that Oprah will move on and be interested in other things.”