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 significantly.
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 public offering.
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
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 the company.
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
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 Best Show.
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 Jewish tradition.
In July 2006, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia announced a multi-year agreement with FLOR, Inc.,
the eco-friendly manufacturer of high-style modular floor coverings,
to manufacture and market a new line of Martha Stewart-branded carpet tiles.
The Martha Stewart Floor Designs by FLOR
line debuted in 2007 with the distinctive design and color palette associated with the Martha
Stewart brand. The agreement with FLOR was part of the Martha Stewart organization's growing home
furnishings program, which includes a wide range of products such as furniture with Bernhardt,
wall color with Lowe's, and floor coverings with FLOR.
On September 14, 2007, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia announced that it
had signed a partnership with E and J Gallo Winery to produce a wine brand with label Martha Stewart Vintage.
The 15,000 cases to be sold included: 2006 Sonoma County Chardonnay, 2005 Sonoma
County Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2006 Sonoma County Merlot (for Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte,
North Carolina, Denver, Phoenix, and Portland, Oregon). Martha Stewart also signed a contract
with Costco to offer frozen and fresh food, under the Kirkland Signature label.
In July 2008, craft items under the names "Martha Stewart Celebrate" and "Martha Stewart Create",
two divisions of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, premiered in Wal-Mart stores.
The deal came about, in part, due to the closing of more than 600 K-Mart stores in the U.S.
In a move from broadcast television to cable, on January 26, 2010,
Hallmark Channel and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia announced a multi-year strategic partnership.
Her hour-long daytime television series, Martha, formerly The Martha Stewart Show, moved to the Hallmark Channel
on September 13, 2010. It aired on Hallmark for two seasons, before cancellation in early 2012,
with the final episode airing on May 11, 2012.
New York Magazine reported in 2011 that Martha
Stewart Living had only made a profit in one of the previous eight years.
That same year, Stewart debuted a new 30-minute show, Martha Bakes, on the Hallmark Channel.
Stewart made another foray into acting with a debut on the long-running NBC legal drama Law & Order:
Special Victims Unit. She played a private school headmistress in the episode entitled "Learning Curve"
(airdate April 2012).
A new television series, Martha Stewart's Cooking School,
debuted on PBS in October 2012. Each weekly, 30-minute episode covers cooking techniques and basics.
It is based on her eponymous book.
In the fall of 2016, VH1 premiered a new show featuring Martha and her friend Snoop Dogg called Martha &
Snoop's Potluck Dinner Party, featuring games, recipes, and musical guests. Snoop Dogg and
Stewart also later starred together in a Super Bowl commercial for T-Mobile during Super Bowl LI in February 2017.
Marley Spoon is a new project of packaged and home-delivered ingredients and recipes for preparation at home.
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.
In 1961, she married Andrew Stewart, then a student at Yale Law School. Their only child,
a daughter named Alexis, was born in 1965. The couple separated in 1987 and divorced in 1990.
Subsequently, Stewart dated Sir Anthony Hopkins but ended the relationship after she saw The Silence
of the Lambs. She stated she was unable to avoid associating Hopkins with the character of Hannibal Lecter.
Stewart reportedly dated billionaire Charles Simonyi, who was an early employee of Microsoft and head of
their software group, on and off for 15 years. She featured footage of him as a space tourist aboard Soyuz on her
television show in 2007. They broke up around February 2008.
Stewart is an avid animal lover. Her pets include champion show Chow Chow dogs,
French Bulldogs, Himalayan cats, and Friesian horses, including her dark horse Rutger.
Stewart also created a video on behalf of fur-bearing animals after being approached by PETA
while in jail. Stewart stated, "I used to wear real fur, but, like many others,
I had a change of heart when I learned what actually happens to the animals".
Stewart filmed a public service announcement on behalf of the farm animal welfare organization Farm Sanctuary.
Martha Kostyra, Stewart's mother, died at the age of 93 on November 16, 2007.
Kostyra, also called "Big Martha" by her family, had appeared on Martha Stewart Living numerous times.
Stewart currently resides in Katonah, a hamlet of the town of Bedford, New York.
She also maintains a 35,000-square-foot (3,300 m2) residence on Mount Desert Island in Seal Harbor,
Maine, known as 'Skylands', the former summer estate of automobile designer and tycoon Edsel Ford,
with gardens designed by renowned landscape architect Jens Jensen (1922).
She claims to have been struck by lightning three times.