Oprah’s Weight Watchers Stock Purchase Sends Stock Prices Soaring

Oprah Winfrey has acquired what can only be described as a rather large stake in Weight Watchers International. According to USA Today, Oprah’s 10 percent acquisition of Weight Watcher’s stocks sent their stock soaring. Of course, Oprah is already a billionaire, and reports claim her deal includes the option to buy an additional 5 percent of the company at $6.97 per share.

It appears that Oprah had a positive personal experience with the Weight Watchers program and is now set to join the Board of Directors. Running simultaneously with Oprah’s announcement is the announcement by Weight Watchers of an expansion of their brand beyond simply focusing on weight loss to a more balanced emphasis on happier, healthier living.

In the wake of Oprah’s involvement, investors jumped on Weight Watchers shares, sending the stock up 53 percent in premarket trading, up to $10.36. According to a Securities and Exchange Commission Filing, Oprah paid $6.79 for her shares with a total investment of $43.2 million.

Oprah certainly does wield a lot of power, and this burgeoning share price seems to reflect the power of her brand in health-related programs and products. Oprah makes no secret of the fact that she struggled with her weight for many years.

“Weight Watchers has given me the tools to begin making the lasting shift that I and so many of us who are struggling with weight have longed for. I believe in the program so much I decided to invest in the company and partner in its evolution.”

Oprah’s intention, in addition to her role as a board member, is to serve as an advisor to Weight Watchers.

Weight Watchers Chief Executive Officer Jim Chambers said, “Through our conversations it became clear that there is tremendous alignment between Oprah’s intentions and our mission. We believe that her remarkable ability to connect and inspire people to realize their full potential is uniquely complementary to our powerful community, extraordinary coaches and proven approach.”

According to deal terms filed with the SEC, Oprah is not permitted to sell any of her Weight Watchers stock during the first two years. In the third year, she can sell up to 15 percent, up to 30 percent in the fourth year, and in the fifth year she can sell up to 60 percent. She has the right to sell all her shares after five years.

In other news, Oprah has just released a new seven-night mini-series called Belief. According to the Atlantic, this mini-series will explore spirituality and faith around the world. The show will air for seven consecutive nights on her channel OWN, running from October 18 to October 24, at 8 p.m. ET. This new series is designed to highlight the similarities between religions but in a fair and honest way.

Oprah’s mentor, the wonderful Maya Angelou, once said, “We are more alike, my friend, than we are unalike.”

For Oprah Winfrey, this is the sentiment at the heart of Belief. Oprah has spent a lot of money over the past three years to produce this series, which is packed with stunning cinematography and effects. Obviously, Oprah is Belief’s greatest asset, but she is also its highest hurdle. As much as Oprah was admired during her talk show days, it’s true that there was a shift among her religious fans when she started espousing an eclectic spirituality. Many of her most loyal viewers were not happy.

One writer at First Things, a conservative Christian journal, described her as “a destructive cultural force,” while the leader of the International House of Prayer, Mike Bickle, said Oprah was a forerunner of the Antichrist. Christianity Today called Oprah “a postmodern priestess — an icon of church-free spirituality,” due to her hard-to-nail-down theology.

The critics will probably have a field day with this mini-series. The debut episode of Belief depicts a birth, highlighting the fact that every person enters this world through the same universal experience. Then we have the questions, like “Why are we here?” and “Is there a divine order to the mystery of our lives?”

Oprah says in the introduction to Episode 2, “Our planet is home to countless religions, and nearly every one of those faiths asks us to love—love your God, your family, your neighbor.”

Generally, Belief is free of potentially divisive content, with the series honoring each religious tradition by showcasing its most precious practices and prominent beliefs. All the depictions are undiluted and fair.

An assistant professor of interreligious education at the Claremont School of Theology, Najeeba Syeed-Miller, was present at a screening of the mini-series last month and was pleased by the two Islam segments. Other people attending the screening noted that segments relating to their own particular religion were theologically accurate and utilized familiar language.

As with anything Oprah does, it appears that this mini-series will be well worth watching, even if just to stir up some interesting conversations!

[Photo by Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images]