Oprah Winfrey
Weight Watchers' shares tanked over 30%, resulting in a major financial hit for Oprah Winfrey. | Source: Shutterstock

Billionaire Oprah Winfrey Loses $50 Million in Weight Watchers Shares after 30% Plunge

Shares of fitness firm WW, which was formerly known as Weight Watchers International, plunged 30% in pre-market hours on Wednesday wiping out nearly $50 million of the stake that Oprah Winfrey holds in the company, according to CNBC.

The drop in the stock came after the dieting firm released disappointing 4th quarter and full-year 2018 results. While analysts had been expecting earnings per share to come in at 60 cents, the actual EPS was 46 cents. Revenues for the fourth quarter of 2018 came in at $330 million against the $347 million that was expected. WW generated $1.5 billion in revenues during the full-year 2018.

Weight Watchers Loses Momentum in Recruitment

For the holiday quarter, WW saw an increase of 22.4% in subscriber numbers. Weight Watchers has warned that fiscal year 2019 will be challenging as a fall in recruitment is expected.

Per the CFO of Weight Watchers, Nick Hotchkin, the start of the year has been particularly disappointing:

However, due to the soft start to the key Winter Season, we expect member recruitment for 2019 to be below 2018 levels, resulting in lower revenue and earnings for the year. We are focused on driving member recruitment and exercising strict cost discipline, while continuing to invest in the areas that will drive future growth.

Not a Bad Investment – Oprah Winfrey’s Stake in Weight Watchers Still in the Green!

Oprah Winfrey currently owns around 8% of WW after having disposed of over 2.3 million shares in fiscal 2018. After the markets closed Tuesday the media mogul’s stake in the fitness firm was worth slightly over $160 million. In Wednesday’s pre-market hours, it was valued at a little over $112 million.

Despite the plunge, Winfrey has still more than doubled her initial investment. At the time of making her initial acquisition of 6.4 million shares, WW’s stock was priced at $6.79. In pre-market hours the stock was just under $20.

Weight Watchers

Weight Watchers International stock price | Source: MarketWatch

Weight Watchers’ Plans for the Future? More of Oprah Winfrey!

While releasing its financials, the dieting firm noted that the soft start to the year was due to lower recruitment figures. Consequently, WW will be investing more in marketing and advertising. Winfrey, has already been tapped to play a major role in the campaign, according to WW’s CEO, Mindy Grossman:

Looking ahead, I’m happy to say that Oprah Winfrey will play a central role in our upcoming TV and digital marketing campaign for Spring, bringing to life a clear message on how WW is the program that works.  Together with Oprah, we are also working on an initiative to galvanize and bring together communities through a series of digital and live experiences and events to accelerate WW’s impact and allow us to reach new and diverse audiences.

What’s the Analysts’ Take on Weight Watchers?

According to CNN, JPMorgan has downgraded WW’s stock to a ‘sell’ rating while cutting the price target to $25 from $37.

Oppenheimer has struck a more optimistic tone by lowering the price target from $98 to $40. The price target is around half of what WW’s stock has been trading in pre-market hours.