In October Spanx, the American underwear maker focusing on shaping briefs and leggings founded by Sarah Blakely, hit a $1.2 billion valuation after making a deal to sell a majority share to Stephen Schwarzman’s Blackstone Inc. Sarah Blakely celebrated the deal by giving out lavish gifts to her employees.
And now it turns out that television icon and billionaire businesswoman Oprah Winfrey, as well as the Oscar winning actress Reese Witherspoon, were investors in Spanx as part of the Blackstone purchase.
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And Oprah can take personal credit for helping get Spanx off the ground in the first place. More than 20 years ago Blakely appeared on the Oprah show to promote her then fledgling product. Oprah Winfrey gave Spanx her personal thumbs up which, like with anything that got the Oprah golden touch, caused its sales to soar.
Oprah Winfrey said in a statement that when Spanx founder Sara Blakely “first came on The Oprah Show to tell us about her idea for SPANX, I knew it was brilliant.”
“We’d all been cutting off our pantyhose for years! So from the moment I wore my first pair, they became a staple in my wardrobe,” added Winfrey.
For her part, Reese Witherspoon lauded Sara Blakely. “In addition to developing a remarkable product and business that literally supports women every day,” Witherspoon said in a statement, “Sara has become a role model for leveraging your success to elevate other women.”
Sara Blakely converted to Judaism when she married Jesse Itzler in 2008. In 2015, the couple were part of a group led by Tony Ressler that purchased the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks for $850 million.
Blakely, who founded the company in 2000, is now the Executive Chairwoman of Spanx.
Blakely started Spanx with $5,000 of her own money and worked out of her apartment. She paid the $150 fee to copyright the name Spanx out of her own pocket. The brand took off after Oprah Winfrey told her millions of viewers that she loved it.