Oprah Winfrey has made millions from her 10 per cent stake in Weight Watchers, which she’s held since 2015. Picture: David Livingston/Getty Images
Oprah Winfrey has made millions from her 10 per cent stake in Weight Watchers, which she’s held since 2015. Picture: David Livingston/Getty Images

How Oprah made her billions

OPRAH Winfrey once famously said: "It was never about attaining wealth or celebrity" - but the talk show queen has managed to amass plenty of both.

The showbiz legend has just been named as the first female black entrepreneur to make it onto the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, taking out the 486th spot thanks to her incredible $US4.04 billion fortune.

While the bulk of the self-made 64-year-old's wealth comes from the show that made her a global household name, The Oprah Winfrey Show, it turns out a huge chunk of her riches also come from another, more surprising source.

In 2015, the actor and former talk show host bought a $58.6 million, 10 per cent stake in weight loss company Weight Watchers, snapping up around 6.4 million shares at $A9.22 apiece.

The value of the Weight Watchers shares more than doubled soon after the partnership was announced, and since 2015, the value of the company has continued to explode.

Today, it's worth a whopping $A140.03 a share - an increase that has increased Winfrey's personal fortune by more than half a billion dollars.

Since becoming a partial owner of the US company, Winfrey went on the weight loss program herself, and lost 20kg - becoming a walking advertisement for the brand in the process.

"Weight Watchers has given me the tools to begin to make the lasting shift that I and so many of us who are struggling with weight have longed for," Winfrey said in a statement at the time the deal was signed.

"I believe in the program so much I decided to invest in the company and partner in its evolution."

Oprah Winfrey made most of her money through her media empire, but a healthy chunk has come via Weight Watchers. Picture: Bloomberg Billionaires Index
Oprah Winfrey made most of her money through her media empire, but a healthy chunk has come via Weight Watchers. Picture: Bloomberg Billionaires Index

Earlier this year, Weight Watchers unveiled a revolutionary new "strategic vision", and soon after CEO Mindy Grossman told news.com.au the brand was shifting its traditional focus on short-term weight loss to long-term "wellness" and healthy habits, ditching the brand's signature "before and after" photos in the process.

It's also striving towards even greater growth.

By the end of 2020 the brand hopes to grow revenue to more than $2 billion and attract 10 million worldwide members to the ranks - and if they pull it off, Winfrey's pockets are set to fill even further.

But how did Winfrey make the transition from small-time broadcast journalist to media mogul in the first place?

In the 70s, Winfrey landed her first TV job on a CBS station in Tennessee while she was still studying in college.

But two years later, after a transfer to a different station in Maryland, Winfrey's career stalled as she was deemed "too emotional".

 

In 1978 she was transferred again to another program, People are Talking, where she rapidly made a name for herself, and within a couple years her show was rating higher than rival and legendary media personality Phil Donahue.

In 1983 she accepted a gig as a talk-show host in Chicago, and the program quickly became the most popular in the city.

It was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show and expanded to run for an hour. In 1986, Winfrey won an Oscar for her role in The Color Purple, and her celebrity status was cemented.

She syndicated her show nationally, and in 1988 she bought Harpo Studios, becoming the first black person and third woman to own and run their own major studio - all at the age of 32.

Those decisions put her firmly on the path to riches, with her net worth topping $40 million by 1988.

She attended the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in May. Picture: Ian West/WPA Pool/Getty Images
She attended the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in May. Picture: Ian West/WPA Pool/Getty Images

Throughout the 90s, the popularity of the show continued to rise and she expanded her company into new territory including print and online media, musicals, film and television.

During that decade she launched her magazine, O, and co-wrote several best-selling books.

She reached billionaire status in the noughties, and finally ended her show in 2011, when she created the Oprah Winfrey Network, serving as CEO.

In January, following her powerful speech covering gender and race in Hollywood while accepting the Cecil B. DeMille award at the 75th annual Golden Globes, it was rumoured Winfrey might be considering running for president, although she later poured cold water on the suggestion.



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