Negotiation Blog

Oprah, Weight Watchers and Win-Win Negotiations

By Leslie Mulligan

No stranger to success in negotiations, Oprah Winfrey has once again made both parties a winner. She and Weight Watchers have joined forces to help the rest of us achieve health and happiness. Their arrangement is based on one of the most fundamental negotiation principals: when the parties' interests are aligned, more value can be created.

Oprah made a major investment in Weight Watchers, announcing a $43 million investment, 10% of the company, on Oct 19th – and both Weight Watchers and Winfrey seem to be winning ever since. Their Interests clearly overlapped; “there is tremendous alignment between Oprah’s intention and our mission”, said Jim Chambers, Weight Watchers CEO.

Oprah is no stranger to weight loss programs any more than she is to success, and has both achieved goals and endured setbacks in this area for decades. So why endorse Weight Watchers? 

Oprah went on the Weight Watchers program earlier in the summer and lost 15 pounds, as she proudly announced on the Ellen show. Her personal experience gave her confidence that the Weight Watchers program could work. But Oprah would not be swayed by just her own weight loss, as she is a shrewd investor and perhaps more importantly, a renowned philanthropist who cares about bettering the world.

And as it turned out, Weight Watchers was intent upon expanding its brand from a weight loss company to one that focuses on “helping people lead a healthier, happier life”, said their CEO, Jim Chambers recently. With that brand shift, Oprah got on board: their interests were now even more powerfully aligned. In a Linked In Pulse that she penned recently, Oprah talked about her philosophy on life, how it matters what we believe.  She said “Our intentions become thoughts … our thoughts become beliefs … our beliefs become words and actions”. Oprah has put her beliefs and dollars into this deal.

When both sides at the negotiation table identify their Interests early in the discussion, real value can be created. While Oprah may have lost some weight, the WTW stock price doubled since her investment.

Time will tell whether this investment pays off – Oprah is committed for at least 5 years, as she cannot sell her shares until that time under the terms of this agreement. But she has always taken the long view, hosting the Oprah Winfrey Show for 25 years, one of the longest day-time talk shows in history, even after she had earned more than $1 billion. Weight Watchers not only received a committed investor, but as part of its effort to stay relevant in a crowded market of weight loss fads, it got a boost in brand recognition by joining with the Queen of Media herself.

Of course, the holiday season presents another obstacle, at least for any personal weight loss goals. But we know the Oprah-Weight Watchers deal will prevail even through the holidays, as it was built on strongly aligned interests – the road to Win-Win!

Negotiating Tip

Does your mood matter? Yes. Those in a good mood capture more value. Get in a good mood before sitting at the negotiating table.


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