How Oprah Winfrey manages her investments through a family office

Oprah Winfrey needs no introduction. The American talk show host, producer, philanthropist, and entrepreneur is one of the most influential icons in modern media and the very definition of a household name. Best known for spearheading the wildly successful Oprah Winfrey Show for 25 years, she now has a gargantuan net worth of $2.5 billion. Here’s a look at her rise to fame – and billionaire status along with it.

oprah winfrey investments
Updated on December 6, 2022

Oprah’s success story is that of a woman who overcame an incredibly challenging childhood to build a career in an industry that was, at the time, mostly dominated by white men.

About the Company

OW Management, LLC

  • Location West Hollywood, California
  • Type Family Office
  • Founded 2010

Early Life and Struggles With Poverty

Orpah Gail Winfrey was born on January 29, 1954, in Kosciusko, Mississippi to Vernita Lee, then an unmarried teenage mother, and Vernon Winfrey, her biological father according to most recounts. She grew up in extreme poverty in Milwaukee and endured physical abuse by her grandmother and sexual abuse by a number of family members throughout her preteen and teenage years. At the age of 12, she moved to Nashville to stay with her father, whom she credits with playing a big role in shaping her into a responsible woman.

Despite her challenging upbringing, she was still a star student and started her broadcasting career at WVOL Radio in Nashville while still in high school. She won a full scholarship to Tennessee State University and enrolled for a degree in communication. Within her first two years in college, she gained widespread recognition and won several accolades including the Miss Tennessee and Miss Black Nashville titles.

At the age of 19, Winfrey landed her first job at WLAC-TV, a CBS station in Nashville. In 1975, she left school to focus on her job full-time but left WLAC for WJZ-TV, an ABC affiliate in Maryland. However, Winfrey felt restricted as a news reporter and transitioned into an anchor for the morning show People Are Talking. Winfrey’s natural improvisational and conversational skills proved immensely valuable to the show which would go on to beat Phil Donahue’s segment by 1979.

The Chapter of the Renaissance Woman

Following her success with People Are Talking, WLS-TV offered her a 30-minute segment – AM Chicago in 1984. The show gained immediate traction and shot up in the rating charts within a year. In 1986, upon the advice of renowned film critic Roger Ebert, the show was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show and was expanded into a 60-minute segment with the channel. This made her the first African-American woman to host a nationally-syndicated show and a millionaire at the age of 32. Her show ran for 25 years and still holds the record for the highest-rated American talk show on TV. The very same year, she was also nominated for an Academy Award for her work as a supporting character in The Color Purple.

The success and media attention that Winfrey gained from The Oprah Winfrey Show helped her catapult her career as an entrepreneur where she could leverage her brand name. In 1986, she founded her own production company, Harpo Inc., making her the first Black person and the third woman to own the controlling shares of a major studio.

In 1998, Winfrey co-founded Oxygen Media, a programming company geared towards women and also launched O, The Oprah Magazine in 2000. The latter is estimated to have generated over $1 billion in revenue over the next 15 years. In 2006, she further expanded her brand by launching a 24-hour Oprah radio channel on XM Satellite Radio in a deal worth $55 million.

In 2011, Oprah launched her own cable channel, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) as a joint venture with The Discovery Channel. She also bought a 10% stake in Weight Watchers in 2015 and still acts as their brand ambassador. In December 2020, she sold 24.5 % of her stake in OWN to Discovery worth over $36 million in stocks.

Additionally, the reinvestments of her profits from her show and films like The Color Purple, Beloved, and Selma, amount to approximately $2 billion.

Real Estate and Other Personal Investments

Oprah has long been an avid real estate investor and has raked up an impressively diverse portfolio that includes:

  • Water Tower Place – She has bought a total of 4 condos for over $3 million and sold them for $4.625 million in 2015.
  • Four Seasons – Bought an apartment for $100,000 and sold for $1.275 million in 2015.
  • Fisher Island Condo – Purchased for an undisclosed amount in 1995 and sold for $6.5 million in 2001.
  • Elmwood Park Apartments – Bought for $298,000 in 2001 and sold for $375,009.
  • Orcas Retreat – Bought two parcels for $8 million and sold them for $14 million in 2021.

In addition to these, Winfrey also owns mansions in Montecito and Colorado worth over $80 million and $10 million, respectively.

 

Oprah's Family Office

Apart from real estate, most of Winfrey’s private investments and wealth management needs are handled by her family office, Oprah Winfrey Management, which she established in 2010. Based out of West Hollywood, California, the 10-employee organisation functions as a single family office with Renata Erlikhman at the helm as its managing director. Peter Adamson, who’d previously worked for the family office of Eli Broad, served as OW Management’s first chief investment officer from 2010 till 2017. Although not a part of the organisation anymore, Adamson is still involved in its investment committee.

According to reports, OW Management has made a total of 6 investments on behalf of the media mogul. These are:

  • Waywire – Seed round in 2012
  • True Food Kitchen – Led the company’s venture round in 2018.
  • Apeel Sciences – Series D in 2020.
  • Oatly – Private equity round in 2020.
  • Maven Clinic – Series D round in 2020.
  • Guild Education – Series F round in 2022.
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