Oprah Winfrey isn’t just a pop-culture phenomenon, she is a savvy businesswoman who has leveraged her popularity to build a media empire and a multi-billion dollar fortune.
Born in rural Mississippi, Oprah got her big break as the first black female news anchor at Nashville's WLAC-TV. She eventually moved to Baltimore in 1976, where she hosted a local talk show before being recruited to host her own morning show in Chicago, called AM Chicago. The show quickly became the area’s highest-rated talk show and was eventually syndicated and renamed as The Oprah Winfrey Show, which ran until May 2011.
Despite stepping away from the spotlight, Oprah has kept busy with a range of projects and partnerships, including a collaboration with Kraft Heinz. These successful ventures have helped the queen of daytime TV amass a 2.6 billion fortune, per Forbes.
Keep reading to find out the business ventures that Oprah owns.
Harpo Inc. is Oprah’s media and entertainment company. Harpo (Oprah spelled backward) is the owner of Harpo Productions, its sole subsidiary.
Based in West Hollywood, California, Harpo Productions is a multimedia production company founded by Oprah. The company is split into two divisions, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), a TV network that Harpo owns a 25.5% stake in, and Harpo Print, which is responsible for O, The Oprah Magazine. The company also operated Harpo Films and Harpo Radio but shut down the ventures in 2013 and 2015 respectively.
Outside of Oprah's own ventures, Harpo Productions also produces The Dr. Oz Show and The Nate Berkus Show.
In 2015, Oprah bought a minority stake in global nutrition and weight loss program Weight Watchers for a reported $34 million. By 2020, the value of her investment in the publicly-traded company (now officially called WW International) had increased to as much as $430 million.
Oprah owns around 8% of the company and was given the option to buy an additional 4.3% of the company’s common stock on a fully diluted basis after signing a new partnership with the company.
Oprah is also an investor in True Food Kitchen, a health food restaurant chain founded by author Andrew Weil. She reportedly holds a significant equity investment in the chain, which has at least 42 locations from coast to coast. In addition to her financial investment, Oprah is a member of True Food Kitchen’s board of directors.
As a part of Blackstone Group (an investment group that also includes Natalie Portman, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and Jay-Z's entertainment company), Oprah is a partial owner of Oatly. The invesment group bought a 10% stake in the Swedish oat milk company in July 2020 for $200 million, valuing Oatly at $2 billion.
Apeel Sciences is a startup that has created edible coating made from plant materials that can make fruit last two to three times as long to help drastically reduce food waste. In June 2020, alongside other celebrities like Katy Perry, Oprah contributed to a $250 million fundraising round, bringing Apeel’s valuation to $1 billion.
Oprah was one of the high-profile media executives that founded Oxygen Media in 1998. Oxygen launched its female-focused cable network in February 2000 and seven years later, NBCUniversal announced it would purchase Oxygen Media for $925 million.
The video startup co-founded by US Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and social-media and marketing expert Sarah Ross counted Oprah among its backers. Waywire was sold to video distributor Magnify in a mostly-stock deal in 2013.
Oprah has invested $40 million to establish the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. The school, which opened in 2007, features state-of-the-art classrooms, computer and science laboratories, a library, theatre, and a beauty salon. Oprah teaches a remote class at the school.
In 1998 Oprah founded Oprah's Angel Network in an effort to inspire people to make a difference. So far the group has raised $80 million from audience donations and celebrity contributors, including Jon Bon Jovi.