Martha Stewart – First Self-Made Female Billionaire

Martha Stewart, 77, was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, on August 3, 1941.

Although, Martha Stewart has been ‘famous’ most of her life, she became ‘infamous’ when she spent time in prison.  Let’s get that out of the way, before we get down to her life’s work.

Stock trading case and conviction

According to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission(SEC), Stewart avoided a loss of $45,673 by selling all 3,928 shares of her ImClone Systemsstock on December 27, 2001, after receiving material, nonpublic informationfrom Peter Bacanovic, who was Stewart’s broker at Merrill Lynch. The day following her sale, the stock value fell 16%.

In the months that followed, Stewart drew heavy media scrutiny, including a Newsweek cover headlined “Martha’s Mess”. Notably, on June 25, 2002, CBS anchor Jane Claysongrilled Stewart on the air about ImClone during her regular segment on The Early Show. Stewart continued chopping cabbage and responded: “I want to focus on my salad.” On October 3, 2002, Stewart resigned her position, held for four months, on the board of directors of the New York Stock Exchange, following a deal prosecutors had made with Douglas Faneuil, an assistant to Bacanovic.

On June 4, 2003, Stewart was indicted by the government on nine counts, including charges of securities fraudand obstruction of justice. Stewart voluntarily stepped down as CEO and Chairwoman of MSLO, but stayed on as chief creative officer. She went on trial in January 2004. Prosecutors showed that Bacanovic had ordered his assistant to tell Stewart that the CEO of ImClone, Samuel D. Waksal, was selling all his shares in advance of an adverse Food and Drug Administrationruling. The FDA action was expected to cause ImClone shares to decline.

Monica Beam, a shareholder of MSLO, also brought a derivative suit against Stewart and other directors and officers of the company. It came before the Supreme Court of Delaware in 2004 and was ultimately dismissed.


After a highly publicized six-week jury trial, Stewart was found guilty in March 2004 of felonycharges of conspiracy, obstruction of an agency proceeding, and making false statementsto federal investigators, and was sentenced in July 2004 to serve a five-month term in a federal correctional facility and a two-year period of supervised release(to include five months of electronic monitoring).

Bacanovic and Waksal were also convicted of federal charges and sentenced to prison terms. Stewart also paid a fine of $30,000.

In a related civil case, Stewart agreed to disgorgeanother $58,062 (including interest from the losses she avoided), as well as a civil penalty of three times the loss avoided, or $137,019. She also agreed to a five-year ban from serving as a director, CEO, CFO, or any other officer role responsible for preparing, auditing, or disclosing financial results of any public company. Stewart was incarcerated from September 2003 to March 2005, at the Federal Prison Camp in Alderson, West Virginia and on house arrest for about two years.

Stewart began as a model and went on to being the spokesperson for home décor and entertaining.  She had a second career as a stockbroker, and her family founded a publishing house. Andrew and Martha Stewart moved to Westport, Connecticut, where they purchased and restored the 1805 farmhouse on Turkey Hill Road that would later become the model for the TV studio of Martha Stewart Living. During the project, Stewart’s panache for restoring and decorating became apparent. Her husband, Andrew is highly accomplished in his own right and had become the president of prominent New York City publisher, Harry N. Abrams, Inc.

Mirken was impressed by Stewart’s talent as a chef and hostess and contacted her to develop a cookbook, featuring recipes and photos from the parties that Stewart hosted. The result was her first book, Entertaining (December 13, 1982), ghostwrittenby Elizabeth Hawes.

After that, the books kept flowing and then the magazine in 1990, Martha Stewart Living, for which Stewart would serve as editor-in-chief. The publication has sold more than 2 million copies per issue. Stewart began exploring television options, with talk shows, specials, movies, and more. She eventually secured funding to purchase the various television, print, and merchandising ventures related to the Martha Stewart brand, and consolidate them into a new company, named Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Stewart served as chairman, 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 she could promote synergy and have greater control of the brand’s direction through the business’s activities.

On October 19, 1999, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia went public on the New York Stock Exchangeunder 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 and the first female, self-made billionaire in the US. She continues to be the majority shareholder, commanding 96% control of voting power in the company.

Martha Stewart Living Omnimediais mega marketing powerhouse, dealing with floor coverings and model homes to wine and signature frozen food line. In the fall of 2016, VH1 premiered a new show featuring Martha and her friend Snoop Doggcalled Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party, featuring games, recipes, and musical guests. Snoop Dogg and Stewart also later starred together in a Super Bowl commercialfor T-Mobileduring Super Bowl LIin February 2017. Marley Spoon is a new project of packaged and home-delivered ingredients and recipes for preparation at home. In June of 2018, Martha started airing as a new recurring judge for Chopped, a cooking competition on the Food Network.

Stewart was married from 1961 to 1990, their only child, a daughter named Alexis, was born in 1965. The couple separated in 1987 and divorced in 1990. Stewart is an avid animal lover. Her pets include champion show Chow Chowdogs, 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 PETAwhile 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.

Stewart currently resides in Katonah, a hamlet of the town of Bedford, New York. She also maintains a 35,000-square-foot residence on Mount Desert Islandin 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).

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