Florine Mark was the franchise founder and served as its president and chief executive officer at its Farmington Hills headquarters.
Florine Mark, pioneering Michigan businesswoman, civic volunteer and philanthropist, has sold the WW Group, her Weight Watchers franchise in Michigan and Ontario, to parent company WW International. Financial terms were not disclosed. Mark was the franchise founder and served as its president and chief executive officer at its Farmington Hills headquarters.
“It was time,” she says of her decision, made with her children, to sell Weight Watchers. “It’s bittersweet. I’ve been in this business for 50 years. My joy is being able to help people get healthy,” Mark says.
According to Mark, COVID temporarily ended in-person Weight Watchers classes, and she anticipates that attendance will be limited as some WW studios reopen. “Weight Watchers has closed most of its centers and wants to go digital. They have great apps, but I’m not in the digital business,” Mark explains.
According to Nick Hotchkin, COO of WW International, “WW International acquired the WW Group’s franchise businesses in Michigan and Ontario, Canada. As we execute on our vision of bringing wellness to all, we look forward to delivering a consistent member experience to WW members in these regions. We want to thank the WW Group and the Mark family for 55 years of helping members on their wellness journeys.”
As a young married woman with five children living in Detroit, Mark struggled to lose weight, even trying diet pills. While in New York, she enrolled in Weight Watchers and was able to lose 50 pounds. Michigan didn’t have a Weight Watchers program, and Mark was inspired to open a franchise.
As a woman entrepreneur, she initially had difficulty obtaining a bank loan. (Years later, Mark chaired the Detroit Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.)
Eventually, she found financing and opened her first Michigan Weight Watchers franchise in 1966. Mark subsequently expanded the business to 14 states, Canada and Mexico. Most of these franchises were sold for a reported $180 million in 2003.
Weight Watchers is a point-based, healthy eating system that has received awards for its effectiveness. Mark has been a very visible public face of the company, hosting a podcast, appearing on a regular “Ask Florine” health segment on WDIV, and doing motivational speeches to encourage healthy lifestyles. In addition to individual members, the WW Group has worked with employers seeking to promote healthy habits among their workforce.
Mark has a three-year contract to work for WW International. “I don’t want to retire. I’m a motivator. Maybe I can be a consultant for companies — helping employees to be the best they can be,” she says.
She volunteers on many nonprofit boards, which “takes up wonderful time,” including serving as a lifetime Federation board member and chairing the Jewish Community Center. Mark received Federation’s William Davidson Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018. Previously, she was an at-large board member and has served on several of its committees. Mark was the first woman to serve on the Detroit Renaissance (now Business Leaders for Michigan) board and has received many honors for her business and civic achievements.
Now that she’ll have more free time, Mark says that she may return to playing the piano and might take singing lessons. She continues to attend a weekly virtual Weight Watchers session and uses a Fitdesk, a stationary bicycle with a platform for a tablet, to help stay fit while working.
According to WW International, local Weight Watchers members will be able to continue their memberships, which include a digital and physical workshop plan, as well as a new digital option with coaching.