Martha Stewart Comes Clean
During our talk, Stewart is poised and in control, sitting with perfect
posture in her office chair, never fidgeting. But there's nothing stiff about
her. At 66, she's straightforward, occasionally blunt, often wry, with humor in
her brown eyes and a youthfulness that may be in part a genetic blessing —
she's always had terrific, glowing skin — but also comes from attitude, a
buoyancy that has seen her through a spectacular public disgrace.
Some people might have banished themselves to a humiliated early retirement.
But in the two and a half years since her release from Alderson Federal Prison
Camp in West Virginia, where she spent five months for making false statements
to government investigators about her role in the ImClone insider trading
scandal, Stewart has jump-started her stalled company and moved forward
full-throttle into a rich, packed, larger-than-life life. "I was ready to
go the moment I stepped out of Alderson," she says. No momentary dip in
self-confidence? No fleeting panic? "I've always been fearless," she
says, and you believe her.
After prison came more than five months of house arrest at her 153-acre
estate in Bedford, NY, during which Stewart wore an electronic ankle bracelet.
By the end of the ordeal, she'd resigned as chairman and CEO of her company,
Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (traded as MSO on the New York Stock Exchange),
and — when MSO stock took a nosedive — lost hundreds of millions of dollars of
her personal fortune. Her first TV show was canceled, and her face disappeared
from the pages of Martha Stewart Living, the magazine she'd founded.
"I will be back," she said, famously, standing on the courthouse steps
just after being sentenced in July 2004.
Is she ever. Stewart has rebounded to a degree that perhaps only her
fiercest fans believed she would. True, MSO reportedly hasn't turned an annual
profit since 2002, the year her name was first publicly linked to the
securities fraud investigation. Her version of The Apprentice, which
aired six months after she was sprung from home confinement, failed after only
13 weeks on the air. And The Martha Stewart Show hasn't had stellar
ratings. But it's been renewed for another year, and this spring earned five
more Emmy nominations. MSO stock has held its own, and Stewart is still the
driving force in the expanding company, though now her title is founder, not
CEO. The number of advertising pages in Martha Stewart Living is
climbing, and Stewart is a presence in the magazine once again, photographed
squeezing a pastry tube and hanging framed maps on a wall in her Maine vacation
home. Fans can listen all day to her Sirius satellite radio channel, read
Blueprint (her new magazine for younger nesters), and find the answer to
every conceivable domestic question in Martha Stewart's Homekeeping
Handbook, an encyclopedic 744-page guide published last year.