Weight Watchers soars after Oprah takes a bite of the company

Oprah Winfrey at the Belief New York premiere.
Oprah Winfrey at the Belief New York premiere. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - Weight Watchers shares more than doubled in value Monday (Oct 19) after US media star Oprah Winfrey said she will buy a 10 per cent stake in the struggling company.

Ms Winfrey, one of the world's richest celebrities, who has fought a long - and public - battle to control her weight, said she was forming a partnership with Weight Watchers International to inspire people worldwide to lead a healthier life. She also will join the company's board.

"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," Ms Winfrey said in a statement.

"I believe in the program so much I decided to invest in the company and partner in its evolution."

Weight Watchers shares soared 105 per cent to US$13.92.

Ms Winfrey paid US$43 million for the 10 per cent stake, according to a regulatory filing, and will receive options to acquire an additional five percent.

Ms Winfrey, 61, said she plans to share her experience with the public as a member of the Weight Watchers programme. The weight management program includes weekly meetings for group support and information on developing healthy eating and physical activity patterns.

"Weight Watchers and Oprah Winfrey make a powerful combination," said Ray Debbane, chairman of Weight Watchers board. "Oprah is a force of nature in connecting with people on a very personal level to live inspired lives."

Ms Winfrey has built a financial empire through savvy branding of her name and image and has a net worth of US$3 billion, according to Forbes. The television mogul, author and actress is known for spotting talent and setting trends - books chosen for her Oprah's Book Club regularly end up on best-seller lists.

Her endorsement of Weight Watchers could lift the flagging performance of the company, which has suffered as consumers turn to free online programmes and wearable fitness trackers to manage their weight.