Content of article
2015 to present
In October 2015, Oprah Winfrey partnered with Weight Watchers, giving the company and its stock a boost. Winfrey bought a 10% stake in the company, became its spokesperson, joined its board of directors, and lost weight on the program, and she helped launch a new holistic lifestyle and fitness program called «Beyond the Scale».
 The late-2015 Oprah effect did not prevent a subsequent downward trend in 2016, largely attributed to challenges from Nutrisystem and the proliferation of free apps and websites aimed at helping people manage their weight, but linked also by some to a faulty initial tech rollout of the new program’s app, and James Chambers, who had been CEO for three years, resigned effective September 30, 2016.
 He was replaced as CEO in July 2017 by Mindy Grossman, who had previously revamped and turned around HSN.
In December 2017, the company introduced WW Freestyle (called WW Flex outside the U.S.), which allows people to carry over unused «SmartPoints» through the week, and lists more than 200 zero-points foods, including various lean proteins, that do not need to be tracked.
 In February 2018 CEO Grossman announced a new direction and purpose for the company:
to move beyond mere dieting to being a «partner in health and wellness» and inspiring healthy habits for real life. Subscriptions to Weight Watchers rebounded significantly by mid 2018, credited to Winfrey’s influence and to Grossman’s tri-fold efforts of revamping the program, improving tech offerings, and giving the company a more broad-based appeal.
In September 2018, the company re-branded itself WW International, Inc., as it shifted its focus more broadly to overall health and wellness, including fitness. It adopted a new tagline, “Wellness that Works», and announced a variety of changes, to be rolled out by year’s end beginning in early October.
 A weight-loss goal is no longer necessary to join the WW program, and its optional weekly in-person meetings have been renamed Wellness Workshops.
A new program, WellnessWins, rewards members for small, everyday behaviors that encourage healthier habits, which are redeemable for exclusive products, services, and experiences. WW’s social media-like digital community Connect will have micro-community Groups, where like-minded individuals can discuss their interests such as hobbies, life situations, activities, and diets such as gluten-free or vegan.
WW’s updated app is configured to help people reach all their wellness goals, not just weight loss. Its FitPoints system is being updated and personalized so that individuals choose activities which have the biggest impact on their health.
 The updated WW app is also integrated with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
 The company is also partnering with the meditation app Headspace to offer customized mindfulness content for members.
Weight Watchers’ business model is one of a subscription-based program of support, plus a variety of purchasable products, media, services, and technologies.
Its brand identity has been framed around Weight Watchers being a community, and its website is intrinsic to its effectiveness.
 Particularly in the 21st century, the company has increasingly marketed itself as a health and wellness brand rather than a weight-loss brand, and its dietary plans emphasize fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and foods high in whole grains and low in trans fats.
 Also in the 21st century, the company has increasingly tried to effectively and competitively balance its digital and offline offerings.
 As of 2018, the program offers weight-loss support via either online and digital participation, tools, and coaching, wellness coaching, weekly in-person support-group meetings, plus online and digital tools, or personalized coaching, online and digital tools, and unlimited phone support.
Weight Watchers’ founder Jean Nidetch was the company’s President from 1963–1973.
Al Lippert was CEO of Weight Watchers from 1963–1981. From 1978–1999, Weight Watchers was a subsidiary of Heinz. Charles M.
Berger was CEO of Weight Watchers from 1982–1994, having previously been its President.
 Since 1999, the CEOs of Weight Watchers have been:
Linda Huett 2000–2006; David Kirchhoff 2007–2013; Jim Chambers 2013–2016;
Grossman is also President, and is on the board of directors. Since 1999 the Chairman of the company has been Raymond Debbane, co-founder and CEO of The Invus Group.
- WW Official website
- Media related to Weight Watchers at Wikimedia Commons
This page was last edited on 17 October 2019, at 23:05
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Weight Watchers was conceived by Jean Nidetch, a housewife and mother living in Queens, New York City, who had been overweight most of her life and had tried pills, hypnosis, and numerous fad diets, all of which only led to regained weight.
 When in 1961 at the age of 38 she weighed 214 pounds and an acquaintance mistook her for being pregnant, she entered a free 10-week weight-loss program sponsored by the New York City Board of Health‘s obesity clinic.
 The program was called the «Prudent Diet» and had been developed in the 1950s by Dr.
Norman Jolliffe, head of the board’s Bureau of Nutrition. The plan included the dictums «No skipping meals.
Fish five times a week. Two pieces of bread and two glasses of skim milk a day. More fruits and vegetables.» and eating liver once a week.
 It prohibited alcohol, sweets, and fatty foods, included a list of allowed foods and the quantities allowed, and encouraged weighing portions.
Although Nidetch lost 20 pounds on the ten-week program, the way the clinic’s leader imparted information at the weekly meetings was not to her liking, and discussion was discouraged;
 in addition, Nidetch’s motivation was threatened by her urge to binge on Mallomar cookies.
 She therefore began a weekly support group in her apartment, initially inviting six overweight friends, which within two months grew to 40 women each week.
 She introduced the «Prudent Diet», a single page from the New York City Board of Health, to her fellow weight-loss seekers, and the group provided empathy, rapport, mutual understanding, support, and sharing of stories and ideas.
 The meetings also included a weekly weigh-in, and Nidetch developed a rewards system including prizes for weight-loss milestones.
 In October 1962 Nidetch achieved her target weight of 142 pounds, and maintained the weight loss; according to her she never exceeded 150 pounds thereafter.
As interest grew Nidetch coached groups in other neighborhoods. One group was at the home of Al and Felice Lippert, and after the Lipperts successfully lost weight, Al, who was a businessman in the garment industry, talked Nidetch into making a business out of her endeavor.
Launch, IPO, and sale to Heinz
With Nidetch as president and evangelist, Nidetch and the Lipperts launched Weight Watchers Inc. in Queens in 1963, renting public meeting venues and initially charging participants $2 (the price of a movie at the time) per weekly meeting;
 the first official meeting, in May 1963, attracted 400 attendees.
 Nidetch led groups and trained others to lead groups as well.
Al Lippert, in charge of the business end of the company, franchised it in 1964, using a razor/razorblade model of an inexpensive franchise fee offered to graduates from the company’s programs who had kept the weight off, with 10% of gross earnings as royalties to the parent company.
 By 1967, the company was international, with 102 franchises in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Great Britain, and Israel.
Felice Lippert was in charge of recipe development, nutrition, and food research; the first Weight Watchers cookbook, published in 1966, sold more than 1.5 million copies. By January 1968 the company had more than one million members worldwide, and Weight Watchers Magazine was launched, publishing 300,000 copies of its first issue.
By 1968 the company had 91 franchises in 43 states, and to expand further overseas Al Lippert took the company public as Weight Watchers International Inc.;
the initial 225,000 shares, offered at $11.25 a share, began trading enthusiastically, rising to over $30 by the end of the first day. Lippert also initiated lines of Weight Watchers prepared food, spas, camps for overweight kids, and weight-loss products such as scales and travel kits.
Nidetch, with her slim well-dressed image, charisma, and flair for motivational speaking, remained the public face of the company. In 1970 she published The Memoir of a Successful Loser:
The Story of Weight Watchers, which documented the original Weight Watchers plan. In 1973 she resigned as president of the company to devote herself to public relations – traveling, being interviewed, and speaking to large audiences about the program’s success.
In the mid 1970s the company moved away from simply dieting and more toward «eating management», developing tailored options to meet the varying needs of its members, including a specialized food plan for the management of weight-loss plateaus, and a maintenance plan.
By the late 1970s the company and its varied operations and divisions had grown too large and complex for Lippert to manage, and it was sold, along with its food licensees, to the H. J. Heinz Company in 1978 for $72 million.
 Lippert remained chairman and signed on to remain CEO for a few years, and Nidetch remained in her role as consultant.
 In the late 1980s, the company’s three divisions – support-group meetings division, food line, and publications and media – were still increasingly profitable year-over-year.
In 1990, with competition from Jenny Craig, Slim-Fast, Healthy Choice, and Nutrisystem, earnings began to decline. The Heinz parent company competed by introducing newly developed Weight Watchers «Smart Ones» frozen meals.
 In 1997, to replace its previous system of counting and weighing food, Weight Watchers introduced the simpler and more flexible POINTS system, a proprietary algorithmic formula which quantifies a food portion for the purposes of healthy weight loss based on carbohydrates, fat, and fiber content.
In 1999 Heinz, while retaining the rights to the Weight Watchers name for use in certain
food categories, sold the company to the private equity firm Artal Luxembourg, for $735 million in a leveraged buyout led by the Invus Group, which manages Artal and which is run by Raymond Debbane.
 Artal put up $224 million and Weight Watchers financed the rest of the buyout with debt. Debbane became chairman of Weight Watchers.
 In 2001 Debbane organized an initial public offering for Weight Watchers and took it public again.
 As of 2018, Artal remains the company’s largest shareholder.
In 2000 the new owners reacquired the license to publish Weight Watchers Magazine from Time Inc., where Heinz had offloaded it in 1996 and where it had performed poorly; circulation recovered quickly, and the magazine was redesigned in 2003.