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Weight Watchers CEO Resigns – Thank God!

Sept. 12, 2016 –  After markets closed on Monday, Weight Watchers announced that Jim Chambers had resigned as CEO and would be leaving the company by the end of September. Weight Watchers said it would start looking for a new CEO to replace Chambers, who was appointed to the position three years ago. In the meantime, Weight Watchers’ CFO, Nicholas Hotchkin, and two board members will run the company on an interim basis.

Nicholas Hotchkin, CFO and interim Office of CEO member, stated, “We remain confident we will deliver revenue and earnings growth in 2016, and that Q3 will be our fourth consecutive quarter of year-over-year member recruitment growth. We are positioned to enter 2017 with a revenue and earnings tailwind. Thilo, Chris and I look forward to collaborating on the next steps of our transformation and the transition to a new CEO.”

Marketdata Commentary

All we can say is… Free at last, Free at last, Thank God Almighty they are free at last!

Finally, the company is free of this incompetent and clueless CEO, whose stewardship of WTW has been a total disaster from the beginning. Why did it take them so long, or him take so long, to realize that he’s the wrong fit for this company?

As Marketdata analysts have been saying for years now, WTW’s problems run deep and even a stake by Oprah will not overcome them until some major structural and marketing changes take place. Now at least they have a chance, with a new CEO on the way. We just hope it’s a CEO with a service industry background and a strong marketing background–not someone from finance or with an engineering or IT bent. Maybe a female CEO?

Questions remain and until some of these issues are addressed, the company will not return to its leadership role in the market, or significant growth.

  • Has anyone replaced Lesya Lysyj and Michael Echenberg, the NACO operations director and chief marketing strategy VP, respectively, who left the company years ago? Who are they and what’s their background? (Note: Ms. Lysyi also worked for Cadbury, along with Jim Chambers, before working for WTW. So, she was probably hand-picked by him.)
  • How’s the morale of the 10,000 meeting group leaders? Are they satisfied with their pay scale and career advancement opportunities? This is probably the firm’s biggest asset. (Many have complained about low pay.)
  • Does WTW have special plans or programs to reach overweight Black & Hispanic women, post-menopausal weight gain women, men, seniors, and diabetics? (Answer: No. They still have a “one size fits all” program catering to White married middle class women–the model that worked in the 1980s.)
  • Does WTW have any partnerships with retailers, to increase exposure and the number of consumer touchpoints? (Answer: NO, but NutriSystem does–4,000 Walmarts, Costco, Sam’s Club, QVC channel, testing Target stores and Amazon.com. Guess whose sales are growing faster – NTRI.)
  • Has WTW penetrated the large healthcare systems market sufficiently, a $300 million/year market? (Answer: NO, they only have one program going, with Humana, after 4-5 years of minimal effort and resources devoted.)
  • After 3 acquisitions in the tech space, to beef up their diet and fitness apps, and $25+ million invested, is the company seeing any real benefits? (Answer: Doubtful. There are many other apps out there that are free or better. WTW had lots of bugs too.)
  • Has WTW increased its retail street exposure, by renegotiating leases and getting better locations and signage for its meeting centers? Have they expanded hours for walk-in traffic? Most of their sites are “hidden”, buried within churches, community centers, other buildings.
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