Oprah to leave WeightWatchers board of directors

Oprah Winfrey will leave the board of directors of WW, the weight loss company formerly known as WeightWatchers said Wednesday.

Winfrey will not stand for re-election to the board during its upcoming shareholder meeting in May. She has been a board member since 2015. 

“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 news release. 

Winfrey announced that she would be donating her WW stock to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

“I have been a long-time supporter of this worthy organization, and I am proud to continue my support,” she said in the news release.

Winfrey added that weight health is a “critically important topic” and that she will continue to be a “vocal advocate” on the issue. She is hosting an event in May about weight in partnership with WW. 

The WW board of directors said it was supportive of Winfrey’s decision to donate her shares. It also said that the donation was intended to “promote and highlight the contributions of African Americans and to eliminate any perceived conflict of interest around her taking weight loss medications.”

Winfrey recently shared that she is taking a weight loss drug, but did not specify which one. Drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy, which were introduced to help people with diabetes, have soared in popularity in recent years. 

Winfrey told People magazine in December that she had previously felt shame for being unable to lose weight but realized she has “a predisposition that no amount of willpower is going to control.” Now, she uses medication to prevent “yo-yoing.”

“I had an awareness of medications, but felt I had to prove I had the willpower to do it,” she told the publication. “I now no longer feel that way.”

Winfrey has been open about her weight loss journey for decades. She has shared various diets and exercise regimens she has done throughout the years.

Winfrey first invested in WW in 2015 at a time when its brand was faltering. Her announcement that she would take a 10% stake in the company sent share made WW stock prices skyrocket.

“Oprah has been an inspiring presence and passionate advocate for our members, providing critical insights and counsel that has helped shape WeightWatchers over these last 8 years,” Thilo Semmelbauer, chairman of the board, said in the news release. “On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank her for her energy, dedication, and for continuing to play a role as collaborator and thought partner going forward. What I know for sure, we will dearly miss her presence on the Board.”

The value of WW shares dropped sharply Wednesday following the announcement, losing about a quarter of their value. The company faces broader concerns about its future as weight loss drugs have become more popular and accessible.