Why Oprah Winfrey has handed in her notice
The multi-millionairess will concentrate on launching her own TV channel
The most powerful woman on American television, Oprah Winfrey, will announce today that she is to give up her daytime talk show in September 2011, exactly 25 years after she started it. She will not be retiring. Instead, the 55-year-old plans to devote the next stage of her career to launching her own television channel, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), focusing on women's issues.
The fact that America needs 22 months' notice of her departure is testament to her remarkable influence. Despite its mid-afternoon time slot, and the relatively small audience of 7m homes, the Oprah Winfrey Show has the clout to get anyone it wants on TV, from the US president down.
Anything she turns her hand to seems to succeed: a number of successful spin-off shows - The Dr Oz Show, Rachel Ray and Dr Phil - have helped make Winfrey a millionairess many times over, while Oprah's Book Club is now central to any publisher's marketing strategy.
As Antonia Bland wrote in a profile of Winfrey for The First Post, "Not since the heyday of the 'Book of the Month' club has anyone done so much to promote book-buying."
Winfrey's own story is an extraordinary tale of success against overwhelming odds. She was raised in poverty in rural Mississippi, the daughter of a teenage single mother. She was raped as a child and after she became pregnant at the age of 14, her son died shortly after birth. She has never married - though she has a partner, Stedman Graham - and has never had any more children.
She began her broadcasting career in Nashville, Tennessee, before moving to Chicago in 1984 to host the breakfast show, A.M. Chicago. Within a year it had been renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show and a year later she had set up Harpo and had a nationally syndicated show. The deal she signed then made her a millionairess at the age of 32, a noteworthy achievement for an African American woman.
Today, she's supposed to be worth $2.7bn. Just as important, when she endorsed Barack Obama in 2008, her say-so was estimated to have brought him an extra 1.5m votes, knocking Hillary Clinton out of the race.
And when today's announcement was leaked on Thursday, shares in CBS, which handles her syndication, fell 42 cents on the New York Stock Exchange. ·
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