Martha Stewart (born Martha Helen
Kostyra on August 3, 1941) is an American business magnate,
author, editor, former stock broker, model, and homemaking
advocate. Over the last two decades Stewart has held a prominent
position in the American publishing industry; as the author of
several books, hundreds of articles on the domestic arts, editor
of a national homekeeping magazine, host for two popular daytime
television programs, and commercial spokeswoman for K-Mart,
helping to propel her into international fame.
In 2002, she was accused of insider trading and other crimes
relating to statements that she made to investigators, and in
2004 she was convicted of a felony other than insider trading,
sentenced to prison, fined, and barred from serving on a public
company Board of Directors and from serving in certain executive
capacities for five years. Since her release from prison in
March 2005, Stewart has been focused on reviving the fortunes of
her businesses, which had suffered due to the very public
accusations, her conviction and incarceration, and the extremely
volatile price of her company's stock beginning with Stewart's
legal troubles. Stewart rapidly regained her former prominence
as a homemaking expert, and she currently hosts Martha, as well
as appearing on other television shows. She is once again
involved with her magazine, Martha Stewart Living, she published
a new book on starting a business, her merchandising activities
are expanding, and the price of her company's stock recovered
Martha Stewart was born in Jersey City, New Jersey to
middle-class Polish immigrant parents. Stewart, along with her
five siblings, was raised in Nutley, New Jersey. Instilled with
a strong passion promoted by her parents, Stewart mastered
traits that many would consider common household chores.
Stewart's mother taught her how to cook and sew. Later, she
learned the processes of canning and preserving when she visited
her grandparents' home in Buffalo, New York. Her father, Eddie,
had a passion for gardening, and passed on much of his knowledge
and expertise to his daughter.
Stewart was also active in many extracurricular activities, such
as the school newspaper and the Art Club. During this time,
Stewart began a modelling career. She was hired and appeared in
several television commercials and magazines, including one of
Tareyton's famous "Rather fight than switch" cigarette
advertisements. Finishing with straight "A"s, she was awarded a
partial scholarship to Barnard College in New York City.
Initially she intended to major in Chemistry, but switched to
Art and European History, and later Architectural History. It
was around this time that she met and later married her husband,
Andy Stewart. After marrying Andy, Stewart temporarily left
Barnard for one year, and continued her moderately-successful
modeling career, while her husband finished his law degree at
Yale Law School. She returned to Barnard a year later, to
graduate with a double major in History and Architectural
History. In 1965 her daughter, Alexis Stewart was born.
At this time, Stewart began to hone and develop her business
skills. In 1967, she became a stockbroker. She was very
successful until she left the profession in 1973, in order to
focus more time on her daughter, and to restore her new home in
Connecticut. It has been suggested that a scandal involving the
furniture company Levitz may have contributed to her decision to
leave the firm of Monness, Horstman, Williams, and Sidel.
Several Principals at the firm allegedly received kick-backs
from Levitz for selling stock in the financially-troubled
company. Stewart and her husband decided to move to Westport,
Connecticut. They purchased and undertook a massive restoration
of the 1805 farmhouse on Turkey Hill Road that would later
become the model for the set of the Martha Stewart Living
television program. Stewart and her husband undertook the entire
venture by themselves. During the project, Stewart’s panache for
restoring and decorating became apparent. Stewart's mother
previously occupied Turkey Hill, while Stewart currently lives
at her new home in Bedford, New York. Stewart is currently
entertaining offers for the home.
Cover of 1992 reissue of Entertaining
In 1976 Stewart started a catering business in her basement with
a friend from her modelling days, Norma Collier. The venture
quickly became relatively successful, but soured quickly when
Stewart was found to be taking catering jobs behind Norma's
back, and was difficult to work with. Stewart soon bought her
portion of the business. Stewart was also hired as the manager
of a gourmet food store, The Market Basket at the Common Market
which she transformed into a booming success.
Meanwhile, Stewart's husband Andy had become the president of
prominent New York publisher Harry N. Abrams, Inc. In 1977, Andy
Stewart was responsible for releasing the English-language
edition of the Gnomes book series, by Dutch authors Wil Huygen
and Rien Poortvliet which quickly became a blockbuster success
and New York Times Best Seller. Andy Stewart contracted
Stewart's company to cater the book release party, where she was
introduced to Alan Mirken, the head of Crown Publishing Group.
Mirken was impressed by Stewart's talent and later contacted her
to develop a cookbook featuring recipes and photos from the
parties that Stewart hosted. The result was Entertaining,
ghostwritten by long-time fashion maven Elizabeth Hawes. From
there, word of her skills and business grew rapidly.
Entertaining became a New York Times Best Seller, and the best
selling cookbook since Julia Child and Simone Beck's Mastering
the Art of French Cooking, released two decades earlier.
Rise to fame and career
Martha Stewart with mother Martha Kostyra and niece Sophie
Herbert on the set of Martha Stewart Living
Following Entertaining's success Stewart released several more
books under the Clarkson Potter publishing imprint, beginning
with a book on hors d'oeuvres in 1984. During this time she also
authored dozens of newspaper columns, magazine articles and
other pieces on homemaking, and made several television
appearances on programs such as The Oprah Winfrey Show.
In 1990 she also signed with Time Publishing Ventures to develop
a new magazine, Martha Stewart Living, for which Stewart served
as editor in chief. The first issue was released in late 1990
with an initial rate base of 250,000. Circulation would peak in
2002 at more than 2 million copies per issue. In 1993, she began
a weekly half-hour service program based on her magazine, which
was quickly expanded to a full hour, and later to a daily
format, with half-hour episodes on weekends. Stewart also became
a frequent contributor to CBS's The Early Show, and starred in
several prime time holiday specials on the CBS network.
On the cover of their May 1995 issue, New York Magazine declared
her as "the definitive American woman of our time."
Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia
Stewart at the New York Stock Exchange handing out orange juice
and brioche to traders on the day of her company's initial
In September 1997, Stewart, with the assistance of business
partner Sharon Patrick, was able to secure funding to purchase
the various television, print, and merchandising ventures
related to the Martha Stewart brand, and consolidate them into a
new company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Stewart served as
chairwoman, president, and CEO of the new company and Patrick
became Chief Operations Officer. By organizing all of the
brand's assets under one roof, Stewart felt that it would
promote synergy and greater control of the brand's direction
through the business' activities. That same month Stewart
announced in Martha Stewart Living the launch of a companion
website, marthastewart.com, and a catalogue business, Martha by
On October 19, 1999, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia went public
on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol MSO. The
initial public offering was set at $18 per share, and rallied to
$38 by the end of trading, making Stewart a billionaire on
paper. The stock price slowly went down to $16 per share by
February 2002. Stewart was then and continues to be the majority
shareholder, with a commanding 96% control of voting power in
Martha Stewart Insider Trading Charges
Beginning in 2002, Stewart's career was shaken by charges
brought against her regarding the sale of her shares in
pharmaceutical company ImClone, days before its application for
a new drug was denied. Stewart's reputation suffered heavily
during the course of events that occurred over the next 3 years,
which included a significant drop in advertising in Living and
to a lesser extent Weddings and Kids. Stewart went to trial and
was convicted in March 2004 on four counts of lying to
investigators and obstruction of justice. She was forced to step
down from her role as CEO and chairwoman of MSLO for a
non-executive role. She also resigned her position as a board
member for Revlon and the New York Stock Exchange.
Stewart surprised many in September 2004, when she agreed to
begin serving a five-month prison term while her appeal was
still pending. In October, she reported to Alderson Federal
Prison Camp in West Virginia. She was released on March 4, 2005,
after which she was placed under supervised release and required
to wear an ankle bracelet for an additional 5 months.
According to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
allegations, Stewart avoided a loss of $45,673 by selling all
3,928 shares of her ImClone stock. The day following her sale,
the stock value fell 16%.
Stewart is a former stockbroker who rose to President of the
NYSE Board of Governors. Given this extensive background in
trading and rules oversight, Stewart was viewed as actively
being complicit in the insider trading charges. As a side note,
if she had held her ImClone shares, she would have eventually
made a significant profit.
The last of her legal battles were resolved when, on August 7,
2006, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced that it
had agreed to settle insider trading charges against Stewart and
Peter Bacanovic relating to Stewart's sale of ImClone Systems
stock in December 2001. Under the settlement, Stewart - without
admitting guilt - agreed to the maximum penalty of about
$195,000, or three times the losses she avoided. Stewart also
agreed to a five-year bar from serving as a director of a public
company and a five-year limitation on the scope of her service
as an officer or employee of a public company. Stewart will be
prohibited from participating in financial reporting, financial
disclosure, internal controls, audits, SEC filings and
monitoring compliance with the federal securities laws.
It is expected that after the bar is lifted, presumably in 2011,
that Stewart (who will be 70), will return to the helm of MSO as
its Chairwoman and CEO.
Some libertarian commentators, especially those in the Ludwig
von Mises Institute, argue that Stewart's trial was unfair and
she was in fact a political prisoner. The libertarian website
Lewrockwell.com also archived a stack of articles defending
Following her release from prison March 2005, Stewart
launched a highly publicized comeback, and was once again
involved in Martha Stewart Living. Offerings of her company's
Martha Stewart Everyday line at Kmart were expanded to include a
new line of ready-made home furnishings, and its mass market
interior paint line became available at larger Sears stores.
However, the most heavily promoted aspect of her attempted
comeback is television. Stewart returned to daytime television
with Martha and appeared in an adapted version of The Apprentice
(called The Apprentice: Martha Stewart). Both shows premiered in
September 2005, and both were produced by Mark Burnett.
Her prime time Apprentice spin-off received poor ratings, which
some attribute to popular dislike for the opportunistic tone of
the network's massive promotional campaign and to NBC's slotting
the show up against the hit drama Lost. The Apprentice: Martha
Stewart was not renewed for a second season.
In October 2005, Stewart also released a new book called The
Martha Rules on starting and managing a new business, and a
month later her company released Martha Stewart Baking Handbook.
In October 2006, Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook, a
reference book about looking after your house, was published by
Clarkson Potter. She also is a regular contributor of cooking,
gardening, and crafts segments on NBC's The Today Show.
Stewart's daily talk show was nominated in 6 categories for the
33rd Annual Daytime Emmy Awards in 2006, including Best Host and
In October 2005, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia launched a line
of houses that carry her name to be built by KB Home initially
in Cary, North Carolina and various other locations nationwide.
The first homes, which were inspired by Stewart's homes in New
York and Mount Desert Island in Maine, were completed in early
2006. Ultimately 650 homes are planned with prices from low
$200,000 to mid-$400,000s. Stewart's company is currently
developing an upscale line of homewares for Federated Department
Stores, owner of Macy's. A line of paper-based crafts for EK
Success is also in development.
In addition to television and merchandising, Martha Stewart
Living Omnimedia launched a 24-hour satellite radio network with
Sirius in November 2005, on which Stewart currently hosts a
weekly call-in show. Stewart has also encouraged the use of
Wikipedia on her program during a segment on pomegranates in
order for viewers to learn more about that fruit's symbolism in
Stewart also made a special appearance on the dramedy series
"Ugly Betty" in the November 16, 2006 episode Four Thanksgivings
and a Funeral, in which she gave her friend Wilhelmina Slater
(played by Vanessa Williams) tips on how to prepare a turkey.
Interestingly, another character on the series, Justin Suarez
(played by Mark Indelicato), is a fan of Stewart.
She is divorced and as of February 2007 is dating former
Microsoft software architect and billionaire Charles Simonyi.