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Oprah Winfrey’s departure from WeightWatchers sends stock tumbling

Former talk show host Oprah Winfrey is leaving the WeightWatchers board of directors and donating her stock in the weight management firm, the company said Thursday, sending its stock tumbling in early trading.

Exit of celebrity shareholder comes at a time when WW is struggling to turn a profit

A woman wears a purple gown on a red carpet.

Former talk show host Oprah Winfrey is leaving the WeightWatchers board of directors and donating millions of dollars in the weight management firm's stock to charity, the company said Thursday, sending its stock tumbling in early trading.

The exit of the media icon and celebrity shareholder, who has been a board member since 2015, comes at a time when WeightWatchers is struggling to turn a profit. The stock fell nearly 23.2 per cent Thursday morning and has more lost more than half its value so far this year.

"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.

Winfrey will donate her WW shares to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, helping "eliminate any perceived conflict of interest around her taking weight loss medications," the weight-loss services firm said late Wednesday.

She owned 1.13 million shares worth $6.34 million as of Jan. 1, according to data from the London Stock Exchange Group. Per FactSet, Winfrey's stake made her the company's largest individual shareholder.

A hand on the lower left corner holds a smartphone horizontally, with the "WeightWatchers" logo in blue on a white screen.

WW International said in a regulatory filing that Winfrey's decision "was not the result of any disagreement with the company on any matter relating to the company's operations, policies or practices." The size of its board will go from 10 to nine members following its annual meeting, the New York company added.

Company hurt by concerns over growth prospects: analyst

Shares of the New York City-based company have also been hurt due to "exacerbated concerns" around its growth prospects and liquidity, Barclays analyst Stephanie Davis said.

Nearly a year ago, WeightWatchers said it was also getting into the prescription drug weight loss business with a $106 million deal to buy Sequence, a telehealth provider with annual revenue of about $25 million and about 24,000 members.

The stock had more than doubled in value last year on hopes for a boost from that acquisition.

But the company's 2024 sales forecast of $830 million to $860 million US — which came in below analyst expectations of $896.2 million — somewhat dashed those hopes.

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