Entertainment

Oprah is leaving WeightWatchers after nearly a decade on board

NEW YORK –

Oprah Winfrey is leaving the board of WeightWatchers, ending a nearly decade-long stint as a director of the beleaguered company that has faced sudden competition from Ozempic.

Winfrey notified the company of her decision earlier this week, telling them she won’t be standing for re-election at its annual shareholder meeting coming up in May. A reason wasn’t revealed, but a WeightWatchers regulatory statement said that her “decision was not the result of any disagreement” or “any matter relating to the company’s operations, policies or practices.”

“Oprah is an inspiring presence and passionate advocate both for our members and for society at large, in elevating the conversation around weight health,” said Sima Sistani, CEO of WeightWatchers, on a call with investors this week. “While I and the rest of our directors will certainly miss her in our board meetings following the end of her current term, she remains a strong strategic voice and collaborator with WeightWatchers.”

Winfrey will also be selling off her sizeable stake in the company: She said in a statement that she’s donating all of her stock to National Museum of African American History and Culture.

WeightWatchers shares (WW) plunged as much as 25 per cent in premarket trading Thursday and are down nearly 70 per cent. Winfrey’s exit is a year earlier than expected, with the media mogul in 2019 signing an extension until 2025.

“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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Winfrey joined the board in 2015 and bought a 10 per cent stake, immediately giving the beleaguered company relevance as more people shifted to easier diets rather than counting points.

WeightWatchers has faced more competition recently from GLP-1 prescriptions drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy sometimes used for weight loss. In response, it launched a new membership plan for people on those drugs that gives members access to doctors who can prescribe these medications, as well as daily nutrition plans, insurance coordination and other weight loss support programs.

Last year, WeightWatchers also made a $100 million-plus deal to buy Sequence, a telehealth business that offers virtual prescriptions to patients for these weight loss drugs where appropriate.

Winfrey told People Magazine in December that she has added a “weight-loss medication to her regimen” but didn’t specify which drug.

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