Why Would Billionaire Oprah Sell Weight Watchers Shares?

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Billionaire media personality Oprah Winfrey sold a portion of her holdings in Weight Watchers International Inc. (NYSE: WTW). It is unlikely she needs the money, which makes the decision unexpected and hard to understand.

Winfrey said she would hold the balance of her shares, about 75% of the total: “I am deeply committed to Weight Watchers and continue to see a bright future for the company.” She will remain on the board of directors.

Winfrey originally bought about 10% of Weight Watchers. Its market cap is $3.7 billion, which means she has probably made hundreds of millions of dollars on the investment she made in 2015. The stock is up 311% in the past two years.

Perhaps the Weight Watchers stake is among the most liquid assets she has. Her net worth, according to Forbes, is $2.7 billion. Much of her fortune is tied up in companies that are private, which means access to capital from those is limited.

Alternatively, Winfrey may have lost some of her confidence in Weight Watchers. In the final quarter of last year, revenue rose 19% to $264 million from the same period a year earlier. But operating income barely budged, up 6% to $59 million. The value of the stock has dropped 20% in the past month to $58. Winfrey may think the shares have peaked.

Weight Watchers did not post strong guidance for 2018:

The Company is providing its full year fiscal 2018 revenue guidance of approaching $1.55 billion and earnings guidance of between $2.40 and $2.70 per fully diluted share. This guidance reflects the operating strength of the Company’s business and expected continued global momentum through the year.

Winfrey may have sold some of her stake before the value of Weight Watchers falls any farther.