I just can't help but believe things are getting a bit out of control within our beloved markets when yesterday's announcement of a celebrity's 40-pound weight loss instantly created $36 million in wealth. For those as fond of off-the-wall ratios as I am, that's a created wealth to weight-lost ratio of $900,000 per pound.
The celebrity in question is Oprah Winfrey, who also happens to own a reported 10% stake in the beneficiary of yesterday's 5% move, Weight Watchers (WTW) . Oprah herself saw a $3.6 million increase in the value of her WTW stake, which equates to $90,000 for each pound she lost. That's not a bad payday, or incentive. That would sure as heck motivate me to get to work on the additional 10 pounds that I'd like to shed.
Despite my recent column that contained a bullish view on WTW for 2017, the Oprah story, which was all over the news, made me cringe. In my rather myopic view, it was not worthy of a 5% uptick in the stock, and not the type of catalyst that will stick. However, it does put WTW back in the spotlight, and it was great press. Coupled with Oprah's new Weight Watchers ads, we'll see where this goes. But make no mistake -- the company must deliver on revenue and earnings. Oprah can't do it all by herself.
Admittedly, I also did not believe that the frenzy created by Winfrey's purchase of that 10% stake in October 2015 would stick, either. That tidbit of news sent WTW shares up 105% to about $14 a share. That was just the beginning of a mini-frenzy in the stock, which nearly doubled again by the following month. In summary, WTW shares quadrupled in the month following Oprah's purchase. At the height, she turned a $43.2 million investment into more than $178 million. That, of course, was not to last.
Despite all the hype, if you can't meet earnings and revenue expectations, Oprah or no Oprah, you will get hurt, and that's what happened to WTW. Shares experienced their own version of weight loss (measured in dollars and not pounds), falling below $10 by this past September.
So yesterday's move, as questionable as it is, is minor in comparison, and displays a more cautious optimism by investors than last year's spectacle. Perhaps it's a bit of "boy who cried wolf" sentiment. The proof will be in the pudding (no pun intended), and whether the company can deliver on consensus earnings estimates for 2017 and 2018, which currently imply forward price/earnings ratios of 10x and 9x, respectively.