Oprah Winfrey… She is probably the most recognized and respected talk show host and influencer in the world. She is also a billionaire and the world’s most successful female celebrity investor, with a net worth of $2.6 billion according to Forbes current estimate made in March of 2022. Recently, the Celebrity Investments Index named the most effective celebrity business investors. The top 30 include 10 women, and they are breaking all known stereotypes about investing.
Oprah, whose Forbes profile reads “Entrepreneur, Personality, Philanthropist” is known for investing in the areas she cares about, including those small businesses and startups that focus on sustainability and inclusivity. Her key investments are Harpo Inc. and Oatly. Let’s take a closer look at her investment portfolio.
Reinvesting proceeds from her shows
Winfrey overcame a tough childhood, born to a teen mother in rural Mississippi and raised without indoor plumbing. Perhaps this life experience was one of the key factors that has led to savvy planning of her personal finances and one of the cornerstone investment rules – “re-investing some of the proceeds from your main business to create a diverse investment portfolio”.
Oprah Winfrey has transformed her sensational talk show that has been running for 25 years, into a true business and media conglomerate. One of the things she did was reinvest the proceeds from her show and from films and other shows, including The Color Purple, Beloved and Selma (co-produced by Oprah’s Harpo Productions).
Mrs. Winfrey is a savvy businesswoman and understands very well that in her main area of expertise she can create multiple projects and generate multiple sources of those proceeds she re-invests while benefiting from the synergy effect across them. California-based Harpo Inc. a multimedia production company, was founded by Oprah. The company comprises two divisions, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), cable TV channel network (Harpo’s stake is 25.5%, launched in 2011), and Harpo Print, (publishes O and The Oprah Magazine). Oprah’s 25.5% share of the network is worth over $65 million
Health and wellness
Speaking of supporting the causes female investors care about, they mostly favor health and wellness among all celebrity-backed businesses. More than 20% of female celebrities have integrated a wellness brand into their portfolio. Among the major players are Oprah Winfrey, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Alba and Tyra Banks: each has 16 wellness companies in their investment portfolios. These companies produce a wide range of products and services, but they all focus on personal health and wellness, be it at-home fitness equipment or meditation apps.
One of the key contributors to Oprah’s personal capital growth is her investment into weight-loss subscription service. The magical ‘Oprah effect’ has worked on Weight Watchers, too: she has a 10% share in it since 2015 (currently 7%) and is the brand ambassador.
In 2021, Oprah Winfrey together with Reese Witherspoon and Whitney Wolfe Herd of Bumble Inc. invested in Spanx Inc.
Sustainable food and drink
Another one of her investment focus areas is food companies. As a part of Blackstone Group, Winfrey co-owns the Swedish company Oatly that produces oat drinks. The group purchased 10% in the $2-billion Swedish oat milk company in July 2020 for $200 million. It’s currently working its way towards an IPO and $10 billion valuation.
Oprah also invests and sits on the board of the restaurant chain True Food Kitchen, which focuses on healthy food with 23 locations, mostly in Texas and California. It focuses on serving healthy, seasonal, sustainable, and organic food with plenty of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options. Her latest investment is likely to be a boon for the restaurant brand — Oprah endorsements have an impact, so much so that “The Oprah Effect” is a real finance term. “We believe this really sets us up for great success,” says Barone, owner of the chain. “It’s not only a partnership from a financial point of view, but it’s also a partnership where she as a great business woman will be lending her thoughts on the market and how we evolve.”
Public presence and political voice
As a longtime political advocate and influencer, Winfrey was a campaigner for President Barack Obama.
In 2018, Winfrey won the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award at the Golden Globes. It also benefited her investments – it sent Weight Watchers stock soaring. Her presence as a brand ambassador has been great for business, Weight Watchers noted in its 2018 annual report.
Winfrey has focused her philanthropy on education. She has donated $425 million throughout her career, including over $100 million to the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. Many students at her girls’ school in South Africa are AIDS orphans.