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Oprah’s departure from Weight Watchers’ board is latest bad news for the stock

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Shares of WW International Inc., better known as Weight Watchers, tumbled after hours on Wednesday, as the weight-loss platform said Oprah Winfrey planned to leave its board and donate her stake in the company after revealing that she used a weight-loss drug.

Weight Watchers
WW,
+4.52%

said in a statement that Winfrey had decided not to stand for re-election at its annual shareholder meeting in May. Winfrey has served on the company’s board since 2015.

The TV and lifestyle megapersonality said she would continue to “advise and collaborate” with Weight Watchers and its chief executive, Sima Sistani, to bring greater awareness to obesity and reduce the stigma surrounding it.

“Weight health is a critically important topic and one that needs to be addressed at a broader scale,” she said. “I plan to participate in a number of public forums and events where I will be a vocal advocate in advancing this conversation.”

Winfrey also said she would donate all of her shares in Weight Watchers to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. That decision, the company said, was intended to “highlight the contributions of African Americans and to eliminate any perceived conflict of interest” around her decision to take weight-loss drugs.

Shares slid 27% after hours.

Winfrey’s decision comes as more companies — including Weight Watchers — try to get a piece of the rising popularity of drugs that are used for weight loss, like Zepbound, made by Eli Lilly & Co.
LLY,
-0.96%
,
and Novo Nordisk’s
NOVO.B,
-0.50%

Wegovy and Ozempic.

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Weight Watchers last year said it would buy a telehealth platform that prescribes weight-management drugs. But its stock took a hit in January when Eli Lilly said it would launch a similar platform and offer home delivery of Zepbound and other drugs.

Meanwhile, Hims & Hers Health Inc.
HIMS,
-0.74%

— best known for selling treatments intended for hair loss and erectile dysfunction — said this week that it was in the early stages of offering weight-loss drugs. Executives there said they saw a bigger opportunity to offer more products and services that help manage obesity.

Winfrey told People late last year that she used a weight-loss medication, along with regular exercise, in an effort to manage her weight. She did not name the drug she was using at that time.

“I now use it as I feel I need it, as a tool to manage not yo-yoing,” she told People.

“The fact that there’s a medically approved prescription for managing weight and staying healthier, in my lifetime, feels like relief, like redemption, like a gift, and not something to hide behind and once again be ridiculed for,” she continued.

Winfrey owns around 1.4% of Weight Watchers, or around 1.1 million shares, according to FactSet data.

Shares of Weight Watchers jumped in 2015 after Winfrey joined its board and took a 10% stake that was worth millions. She later sold some of that stake.

Before the close of regular trading on Wednesday, the company’s stock was down 18.4% over the past 12 months.

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