In February 1980, Mark Hughes began selling the original Herbalife weight
management product from the trunk of his car. Hughes often stated that the genesis of his product and program stemmed from the weight loss concerns of his mother Joanne, whose premature death he attributed to an eating disorder and an unhealthy approach to
weight loss. His goal was to change the nutritional habits of the world.
His first product was a protein shake designed to help
people manage their weight. He structured his company using a direct-selling, multi-level marketing model which attracted thousands of distributors
(Herbalife Independent Distributors) who sold its products door-to-door or through word-of-mouth, without relying on commercial distribution in retail stores.
The company's slogan, "Lose Weight Now, Ask Me How", became a marketing theme for distributors, featuring heavily on badges, flyers and posters. Early
methods to recruit distributors included seminars, which would feature distributors giving health and weight loss testimonials on the Herbalife products and a keynote address by Hughes. By 1982 Herbalife had reached US$2 million in sales and had expanded
In 1985, the California Attorney General sued the company for making inflated claims about the efficacy of its products.
The company settled the suit for $850,000 without admitting wrongdoing.] In 1986 Herbalife became a publicly traded company on the ,NASDAQ
and in 1996 Herbalife reached US$1 billion in annual sales.
Mark Hughes died at age 44.The Los Angeles County Coroner autopsy results ruled that the entrepreneur had died of an accidental overdose of alcohol and doxepin, an anti-depressant.The
company continued to grow after his death and in 2002 was acquired by and Whitney and Co LLC for US$685 million, who took the company private again.
In April 2003, Michael O. Johnson joined
Herbalife as CEO following a 17-year career with The
Walt DisneyCompany, most recently as president of Walt Disney International.On 16 December 2004, the company had an initial public offering on the NYSE of
14,500,000 common shares at $14/share. 2012 net sales were reported as $5.4 billion. In April 2012, the company celebrated its 30th anniversary with a four-day event attended by 35,000 Herbalife Independent Distributors
from around the world. In August 2005, Dr. Steve Henig joined the company as Chief Scientific Officer, responsible for product research and development. In 2008, President and COO Greg Probert resigned after it was reported that he had not completed the degree
requirements for the MBA he claimed on his resume.