Weight Watchers CEO: Must be a solution for fiscal cliff

David Kirchhoff on state of economy, health care


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," November 26, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF "YOUR WORLD": All right, well, no shortcuts, no short-term fixes. It's the only way, if you think about it, to shed the pounds and keep them off, I'm told, I'm told.

And to hear Weight Watchers CEO David Kirchhoff tell Washington, it's really the only way to start cutting a deal.

Good to have you.


CAVUTO: Now, why would the head of Weight Watchers be so fired up about Washington, D.C., getting its act together by the end of the year?

KIRCHHOFF: Like a lot of people because problems have to start getting solved.

I mean, we've suffered through our political season. It's gone. It's behind us. The hope that everybody has is that people are going to finally once and for all come together and actually starting working through their problems and doing their jobs.

CAVUTO: What if they don't?

KIRCHHOFF: Well, that's not good.


CAVUTO: Does that mean fewer people go to Weight Watchers or what?

KIRCHHOFF: Well, yes, I have two concerns, as do, frankly, most CEOs.

First off, should we tumble over the fiscal cliff, the concerns are the impact that that's going to have first and foremost on the consumer. I saw an estimate this morning that it could take $200 billion out of the consumer economy. That's bad.


CAVUTO: In other words, people shop less.

KIRCHHOFF: Yeah, exactly, because their taxes get jacked up and they shop less and a bunch of bad second and third effects...


CAVUTO: But what if they get a deal where it's disproportionally tax hikes?

KIRCHHOFF: The question there would probably be whose income is being affected? Who is seeing the tax hikes? And are those the people that are spending money on day-to-day stuff?

CAVUTO: Oh, I see. So, a hike on the well-to-do would have less impact, if it's limited to the well-to-do, than everyone, right?

KIRCHHOFF: For I think most consumer facing companies -- most consumer product companies, they would probably say, yes, that's probably true.

Now, the effect that that has on the long term in terms of capital formation and everything else is a completely different subject. But if you're asking, short, short term, macroeconomic effect, I think that's what's first and foremost in people's mind.

The other thing that is on people's mind is our health care system is broken.

CAVUTO: Sure. That, I imagine, in your business is far more paramount right now. Right now? One is the immediate issue.

KIRCHHOFF: We feel we can be part of the solution to that because things like obesity are such significant drivers of chronic disease. And we've got a scalable, effective solution that can actually drive against that.

CAVUTO: But a lot of your customers are also fearing the tax hikes and the added costs associated with this.

KIRCHHOFF: That's right. Yes. It kind of cuts both ways.

I'm worried about the short term macroeconomic effect. I'm optimistic that bright minds can get together and begin actually reconstructing health care in a way that drives...


CAVUTO: Have you been to Washington, D.C.? Have you seen these great minds?

KIRCHHOFF: Look at how young I am, I'm optimistic.



CAVUTO: But you are confident eventually that the fiscal cliff deal could be done and the health care thing can work out to folks' advantage?

KIRCHHOFF: I think the health care one's tougher in many respects, because it's fundamentally going from a fee-for-service world, to a world in which we call population health, where you have effectively particularly doctors and patients coming together to have care delivered and be purchased in a much better way that prevents disease and encourages people to adopt better habits and behaviors and everything else.

That starts driving against diabetes, cardiovascular disease. Those are the types of things that are driving the health care costs right now, let alone all the rampant inefficiencies in health care delivery. And we're watching our health care premiums as a company going up double digits most years.

CAVUTO: Yes. That's true.

KIRCHHOFF: And that's a problem.

CAVUTO: All right, David, thank you very much, David Kirchhoff, the Weight Watchers CEO. He does not have a weight problem. Probably a good thing.

KIRCHHOFF: Had one. Had one.

CAVUTO: Had one, but don't now. That's regrettable.


CAVUTO: But, anyway, I digress.

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