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Subject: Felice Lippert, Weight Watchers Founder

New York
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Date Posted: March 02, 2003 10:20:19 EDT

Felice Marks Lippert, in whose kitchen Weight Watchers was hatched 40 years ago, died on Saturday at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y.

The cause was lung cancer, her family said. Mrs. Lippert was 73 and lived on the East Side of Manhattan and in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Mrs. Lippert played a role in turning a budding business into an international phenomenon with millions of subscribers to its weight-control regimen. She helped develop the company's programs and was a director and vice president of Weight Watchers International until the H. J. Heinz Company acquired it in 1978. Heinz sold the business to a European investment company in 1999.

At the time of her death, Mrs. Lippert was chairwoman of the Weight Watchers Foundation, which promotes nutritional education. She also held the South African Weight Watchers franchise, which the Lipperts acquired in the mid-1990's.

The idea that eventually became Weight Watchers began in 1963, when Mrs. Lippert was living in Baldwin Harbor, N.Y., with her husband, Albert, and their two sons.

The couple had married a decade earlier and had settled into a routine that included weekly gatherings with friends for various activities; for example, they would hire an instructor to learn a new dance. By then the Lipperts had also realized they had a problem; they had put on weight.

Mrs. Lippert had heard about a woman in Queens, Jean Nidetch, who was teaching a diet program, and she asked Mrs. Nidetch to one of the weekly gatherings. A week later, following the nutritional regimen left by Mrs. Nidetch, Mrs. Lippert had lost four pounds and Mr. Lippert had lost seven. Eventually, they lost 100 points between them.

Realizing the potential, the Lipperts and Jean and Marty Nidetch huddled around the Lipperts' kitchen table for weeks to develop a strategy. They came up with the name and the concept of having people come to hear Jean Nidetch rather than her visiting their homes.

The two couples rented a space in Little Neck. Twenty-two people showed up at the first meeting, paying $2 each. Sixty-six showed up in a second space a week later in Baldwin. Within a year, Mr. Lippert began to sell franchises.

Jean Nidetch wrote "Weight Watchers Program Cookbook," which sold millions of copies. Weight Watchers took off comparably.

Felice Lippert was born in the Bronx and graduated from Hunter College. She taught second grade in the New York public schools. She was on the boards of North Shore Hospital, the American Ireland Fund and the Cancer Research and Treatment Fund. She also supported the UJA-Federation of New York; St. Francis Hospital in Port Washington, N.Y.; and Hunter College.

Albert Lippert died in 1998. Mrs. Lippert is survived by two sons, Keith L., of Manhattan and Randy S., of Hellerup, Denmark; two sisters; two brothers; and four grandchildren.

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