Oprah’s 8 Biggest Business Mistakes

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There's no denying the fact that Oprah Winfrey is a business mogul through and through, but like every successful business person, she's made some big mistakes throughout her career — one of which is the launch of her network, OWN. She even said on CBS This Morning that if she had known this business venture would be so difficult, she might have tried something else. According to the Los Angeles Times, the struggling channel has averaged fewer than 300,000 viewers in prime time and its joint parent company, Discovery Communications, Inc., has spent more than $312 million to boost its ratings. While Oprah and the OWN network work through the kinks, let's take a look at the other business blunders the talk show host has made through the years.

  1. Launching OWN too soon

    The highly anticipated launch of the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) in January 2011 proved to be too much in too little time. Oprah recently admitted that one of her biggest OWN mistakes was launching the network before it was ready. She said the decision to launch the channel sooner than later was like "having the wedding before you were ready, and walking down the aisle saying, oooh should we really be doing this?" The new channel launched while Winfrey was wrapping up her last season of The Oprah Winfrey Show and preparing for the huge series finale last May. In business, timing is everything, and, by the looks of OWN's ratings, she jumped the gun way too soon.
  2. Tweeting for Nielsen viewers

    Oprah caused quite a stir on Twitter when she specifically asked Nielsen viewers to watch her OWN channel. Followers criticized the talk show host for "begging for viewers" and called her plea "unethical." The ratings measurement company took the tweet seriously and reviewed the incident because she violated their network policy of targeting Nielsen subscribers in an attempt to change the ratings. Oprah apologized for her tweet and removed it at the request of Nielsen.
  3. Car giveaway

    Oprah's unforgettable car giveaway in 2004 might have seemed like a terrific idea for the 276 audience members who received brand new Pontiac G6s, but the hysterical screams and tears of joy died down when the recipients learned that they had to pay a tax on the winnings. The winners were given a choice to either cough up the $7,000 in taxes or forfeit the car. Turns out this charitable deed came back to bite her when some of the winners had to give up the car.
  4. Promoting The Secret

    When Oprah Winfrey promoted the controversial self-help book The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, things got a little out of hand. The Secret follows the Law of Attraction, which claims that the secret to getting what you want in life, whether health, wealth, or happiness, is all in the way you think. Essentially, Byrne says if you think positively you will get what you want, but if you think negatively bad things will happen to you. It may sound like a bunch of malarkey now, but at the time many of Oprah's viewers took this book and her nod of approval to heart. It wasn't until Oprah's producers received a letter from a woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer and decided not to undergo chemotherapy because of the book's message that people started to reconsider the truth. Although Oprah brought the woman on the show to discuss her misinterpretation of the Law of Attraction, she should have thought twice before giving this controversial book so much credence.

  1. Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls

    The creation of Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa was a terrific idea in theory, but the high-profile and well-intentioned investment has experienced its fair share of scandals over the last few years. Shortly after the school opened in 2007, school employees were charged with abusing and sexual molesting a group of students. Winfrey quickly addressed the issue by flying to South Africa and apologizing to the girls and their families for the incident. She even hired a team of American private investigators to work on the case, but many have wondered if Oprah's distance and lack of supervision may prove to be dangerous for the school.
  2. Feud with Hermès

    In 2005, Oprah experienced her so-called "Crash moment" when she was snubbed at the Hermès luxury store in Paris and denied entrance. Oprah spoke out about the incident on her talk show and dismissed other accounts that the store turned her away because she arrived after closing. Another account of the story was that Hermès staff didn't recognize the billionaire talk show host because she wasn't wearing any makeup and refused to let her in because they had been "having a problem with North Africans" at the time of the incident. Regardless of what really happened, Oprah got a televised apology from Hermès president Robert Chavez who appeared on the show to end the overdramatic dispute.
  3. Free chicken giveaway

    In 2009, Oprah caused one of the biggest product frenzies when the talk show host promoted free coupons for KFC's new grilled chicken. Customers flocked to KFC restaurants around the nation to redeem their coupons, causing insanely long lines and utter chaos. There was even talk of an alleged sit-in and riot-like behavior happening at certain restaurants. The fast food chain canceled the free chicken giveaway, which resulted in consumer lawsuits against KFC for allegedly scamming customers out of a free offer.
  4. Promoting A Million Little Pieces

    Oprah got a lot of flak from the press and her viewers when the author of A Million Little Pieces, a book she tirelessly promoted, was exposed for fabricating much of his story. Oprah single-handedly boosted sales and brought international attention to the book after selecting it for her book club in 2005. A year later, The Smoking Gun discovered that the New York Times best seller was full of lies, specifically relating to author James Frey's drug abuse accounts, criminal record, and life experiences that were reported in the alleged memoir. Oprah brought Frey on her show for the second time to set the record straight on the fabrications of A Million Little Pieces, and said she felt duped by him. Turns out so did everyone else who bought the book because of her endorsement.
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