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Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart

Although recently she was portrayed as an infamous business cheat, and sentenced to Jail for a few months, there is much more to Martha's image than this negative one. Martha's life story is one of persistence, hard work and great accomplishments. Martha Stewart's image as the personification of gracious living may lead some to imagine that she grew up in the sort of rural luxury pictured in her books and magazine. In fact, she was born in the industrial city of Jersey City, New Jersey, a location known more for heavy industry than for rustic charm. Her parents, Martha and Edward Kostyra, were a schoolteacher and a pharmaceuticals salesman, respectively. When Martha was three, the family moved to Nutley, New Jersey, where she grew up with four brothers and sisters in a close-knit Polish-American family defined by the father's intense ambition for his children. Edward Kostyra taught his daughter gardening when she was only three; her mother taught her cooking and baking and sewing; she learned still more about baking pies and cakes from an elderly couple -- retired bakers -- who lived next door. Martha Kostyra was a hard-working, serious child. A straight A student, she won a partial scholarship to Barnard College in New York City and worked as a model to help pay expenses. She began her college career intending to study chemistry, but later switched to art, European history and architectural history. Just after her sophomore year, she married Andrew Stewart, a law student. After graduation, she continued a successful modeling career, doing television commercials for Breck, Clairol, Lifebuoy soap and Tareyton cigarettes. In 1965, her daughter was born, and Martha Stewart quit modeling,

In 1967 she began a successful second career as a stockbroker, her father-in law's profession. Andrew Stewart founded a publishing house and served as chief executive of several others. When recession hit Wall Street in 1973, Martha Stewart left the brokerage. She and her husband moved to Westport, Connecticut, where they undertook the ambitious restoration of the 1805 farmhouse seen in her television programs. She still lives there.

In 1976, Martha Stewart started a catering business, first in partnership with a friend from college days, and then on her own. In ten years this business, which she ran out of the basement of her farmhouse, had become a $1 million enterprise. She also opened a retail store in Westport to sell specialty foods and supplies for entertaining.

She wrote articles for the New York Times and was an editor and columnist for the magazine House Beautiful. In 1982 Martha Stewart published the first of many lavishly illustrated books. Entertaining, co-written with Elizabeth Hawes, was an instantaneous success, and made Martha Stewart into a one-woman industry. Soon she was producing video tapes, dinner-music CDs, television specials and dozens of books on hors d'oeuvres, pies, weddings, Christmas, gardening and restoring old houses.

Regular appearances on the Today show made her a household name. She signed an advertising and consulting contract with Kmart for a reported $5 million. She typically earns $10,000 for a lecture and customers pay $900 a head to attend seminars at her Connecticut farm. For much of the 1980s, she was a contributing editor to Family Circle magazine before starting her own magazine, Martha Stewart Living, which attained a circulation of 1.3 million.

After appearing on multiple television specials on cable, public and network television, in 1993 Martha Stewart started a syndicated half-hour TV show called, like her magazine, Martha Stewart Living. Her enterprises have grown into a conglomerate, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. (MSO), with branches in publishing, television, merchandising and Internet/direct commerce, providing products in eight core areas: home, cooking and entertaining, gardening, crafts, holidays, housekeeping, weddings, and child care.

Over the years, Martha Stewart has shown patience and good humor in the face of the criticism and satire that are the inevitable lot of public figures in the mass media, but in 2003 she was confronted with a far greater challenge, an investigation of her personal stock trading by the Justice Department and the Securities Exchange Commission. Although she maintained her innocence of all charges, she was brought to trial in the first months of 2004. The court dismissed the original accusation of insider trading from which the other charges stemmed, but in March 2004 a jury found Martha Stewart guilty on the four remaining counts of misleading federal investigators and obstructing an investigation. Although she has appealed her conviction, in October 2004 she began serving a five-month prison sentence. She has resigned from any active role in the company she founded, but she plans to resume her business career in the years ahead. Whatever the future holds in store for Martha Stewart, she has had more influence on how Americans, eat, entertain, and decorate their homes and gardens than any one person in our history.

CBS to tell Martha Stewart story

A film about the recent life of Martha Stewart is to go in to production just weeks after the lifestyle guru was released from jail. CBS is producing the TV movie about the past six years of Stewart's life. She is currently serving five months under house arrest in New York State following her conviction for lying about the sale of shares.

There are reports of Cybill Shepherd playing her, having done so previously, but casting is not yet complete. Shooting will get underway on 28 March in Toronto, Canada, and could take as little as four weeks to complete. "The story begins the day her company (Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia) goes public and it ends the day she's released from prison," said executive producer Tom Patricia.

"Our opinion is that it is probably one of the most memorable comeback stories ever." Stewart returned to court on Thursday to start the appeal process against her conviction. Her lawyer, Walter Dellinger, argued the conviction should be reversed on two grounds: that one juror lied on his selection questionnaire, and that a government witness allegedly perjured himself.

Martha Stewart tells fans about discomforts of her ankle device

As if home confinement wasn't bad enough, Martha Stewart says the electronic monitoring device she wears around her ankle chafes, too.

Stewart told fans in an online chat Monday night that the rigid plastic bracelet — which she can't remove for even a minute until her home detention is over in August — is uncomfortable and gets in the way of exercise.

"I wish it were removable, but it is not," she wrote in her chat.

Stewart, 63, touched on a number of subjects in her chat, which took place from her home in Bedford, N.Y. She recalled missing her pets during her five-month stint in a West Virginia prison, along with fresh lemons. She also said thousands had applied to be on her version of The Apprentice airing in the fall.

Stewart was convicted of obstructing justice and lying to the government about her 2001 sale of nearly 4,000 shares of the biotechnology company ImClone Systems Inc., run by her longtime friend Sam Waksal.

She was freed from prison March 4.

Martha Stewart Goes Back to Work After Prison

Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart returned to work on Monday and told her cheering staff she would use lessons from her five months in prison to improve her company's products and reach a broader audience.

Slimmed down and clearly relishing her release, the smiling founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia said the people she had met and her time to reflect behind bars had taught her the values of tradition, family, friendship and the comforts of home.

"We may not always have been clear in our message. Perhaps we focused too much on the 'how to' and not enough on the 'why,"' she said. She added, "Every parent who has made cookies for their children and has seen their children's gratitude in their faces knows that connection between doing and loving.

"We're going to engage and inspire new readers and new viewers to whom these topics may have seemed alien, unfamiliar or even, believe it or not, superficial," she said.

Stewart, 63, served five months for lying about a stock trade and now is serving five months of house arrest following her release on Friday. She is allowed to leave home for 48 hours each week to work.

"I love all of you from the bottom of my heart," Stewart told some 600 employees gathered at company headquarters. She choked back tears as she said: "I'm really glad to be home."

Despite her poignant words, her return had the feel of a political-campaign appearance, complete with piped-in triumphant music and risers of television crews and photographers jostling for their shots.

In a touch befitting Stewart, who built her business on domestic tips, a simple vase of daffodils graced the stage where she spoke. It was a far cry from the months Stewart walked grimly past the media into her trial in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, looking drawn and heavy.

Having built a catering company into the media empire of lifestyle magazines, cookbooks and television shows, she was found guilty in March 2004 of conspiracy, making false statements and obstruction of agency proceedings.

Now looking radiant, thinner and better-coiffed, Stewart wore a dark suit with a gold necklace; the electronic monitoring bracelet she must wear was not visible to the crowd of employees who gave her several standing ovations.

Stewart, who blew a kiss to them, faces quite a challenge at Omnimedia. Since 2001, just before her legal troubles became public, its revenue has fallen by about a third.
It posted its second consecutive loss last year, and advertisers have fled her flagship magazine, Martha Stewart Living. Shares of Stewart's company more than doubled when she was in prison, but analysts considered them much too high given the company's woes. Since her release, shares are down about 17 percent and closed at $27.97 on Monday.
"What's happened since her release is that people are starting to take a harder look at what the real prospects of the company are," said Gary McDaniel, a Standard & Poor's stock analyst.

Stewart is planning a new television show, "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart," a spin-off of the popular Donald Trump reality TV show and a new daytime cooking and lifestyle TV show.

Except to mention the women she met and admired at the Alderson, West Virginia prison known as "Camp Cupcake," Stewart made only oblique references to her time behind bars.

"Pride in homekeeping creates serenity and pleasure," she said at one point. "I even experienced it standing around the microwave in the place where I was staying."

Martha Stewart leaves prison

Martha Stewart, released after five months in a West Virginia prison, landed at Westchester County Airport shortly after 2 a.m. Friday and was whisked away by a motorcade of two cars bound for her estate in Katonah.
The plane landed two hours after Stewart left prison in Alderson, W.Va.

Stewart quickly set her sights on rebuilding her homemaking empire after serving a five-month sentence for lying about a stock sale.

"The experience of the last five months ... has been life altering and life affirming," Stewart said in a statement issued on her Web site. "Someday, I hope to have the chance to talk more about all that has happened, the extraordinary people I have met here and all that I have learned."

The domestic diva left the prison at 12:30 a.m. and headed to a nearby airport, where she boarded a private jet about 45 minutes later for the flight to New York.

Before boarding the plane with her daughter, Stewart smiled and waved to the crowd, but she did not speak to reporters.

Gone were her prison khakis — a slim-looking Stewart was dressed in a gray-and-white poncho, dark jeans and ankle boots.

Stewart left the prison in a sport utility vehicle, moments after prison officials announced she had been released. Her vehicle passed by reporters and 15 fans without stopping. About a half-mile from the prison a cardboard sign said, "Goodbye Martha. From fans and friends in Alderson, W.Va."

"Right now, as you can imagine, I am thrilled to be returning to my more familiar life," Stewart said in the statement. "My heart is filled with joy at the prospect of the warm embraces of my family, friends and colleagues. Certainly, there is no place like home."

Stewart, 63, will spend the next five months on home confinement at her 153-acre estate in Katonah, N.Y. She had 72 hours after leaving Alderson to report to corrections officials in New York to be fitted with an electronic ankle bracelet so her movements can be monitored.

Under the terms of her confinement, she will be allowed to leave her compound for up to 48 hours a week for her job, including working on her version of the hit reality TV show "The Apprentice" and continuing her role as creative talent for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. She also will star in a revival of her homemaking show, and her company will resume paying her $900,000-a-year salary.

In the process, Stewart hopes to turn around the fortunes of a company that produces everything from television shows and magazines to bed sheets and bakeware. In 2004, the company suffered a loss and its revenues sagged, but the stock price rose considerably during her prison stint as investors bet on a Martha comeback.

During her time at the federal women's camp in Alderson, Stewart kept with her lemonade-from-lemons attitude and sought to imprint her style on the prison.

She foraged for dandelions and other wild greens, concocted recipes in a microwave and even ate from a vending machine. She also participated in nightly yoga classes, spent time on crafts and writing and lost weight.

Stewart even took on inmate rights, saying her fellow prisoners risked falling into a "severe depression" because of false hopes raised by a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down federal sentencing guidelines. Her own sentence, however, was ruled "reasonable" in light of that ruling.

Stewart's release came one day shy of the one-year anniversary of her conviction in New York on charges stemming from her 2001 sale of nearly 4,000 shares of the biotechnology company ImClone Systems, run by her longtime friend Sam Waksal.

Prosecutors claimed Stewart received a tip that Waksal was unloading his shares ahead of a negative government report about an ImClone cancer drug. The stock tumbled in the following days, and Stewart saved $51,000 on the sale.

Stewart's lawyers argued the sale was based on a prearranged agreement with her stockbroker, Peter Bacanovic, to sell once the stock dropped to $60 per share.

Stewart was convicted of obstructing justice and lying to the government. Bacanovic is currently serving a five-month federal sentence for his role in the stock deal. Waksal was convicted on a separate charge of insider trading.

The case came in the midst of a federal crackdown on corporate corruption, and Stewart is one of the most prominent figures to serve time in the wave of scandals.

Rebuffed twice in her attempts to obtain new trials, Stewart opted to enter prison early rather remain free pending her appeal.

"I must reclaim my good life," she said in September, lamenting that she would miss her beloved pets but looking forward to being free in time for her cherished spring gardening.

Stewart slipped into the minimum security women's camp in the early hours of Oct. 8. By contrast, her company made sure the media had an opportunity to photograph her at the airport before Friday's flight homeward.

Since she has already served her time, her lawyers say her appeal is mostly about clearing her name. An appeal hearing is scheduled for March 17 in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan.

Here comes Martha!

Maybe federal prison isn't such a bad career move after all. With the clock running out on homemaking maven Martha Stewart's five-month prison sentence, the domestic diva's 153-acre Bedford, N.Y., estate is about to become the staging ground for what could be a comeback of epic proportions. ``This is the point at which Martha Stewart turns into Che Guevara as a cultural icon,'' gushed New Yorker John Small, the founder of savemartha.com.

Stewart, 63, is scheduled to trade in her prison jumpsuit for a chic home-monitoring bracelet March 6, but rumors have been swirling since last week that she may take her first steps toward freedom as early as Friday. The diva's disciples plan to fete the occasion nationwide with ``Free Martha'' parties where supporters will sample Stewart's recipes and celebrate the beginning of her five-month house arrest, Small said. Some plan to make the trek to ``Camp Cupcake'' in Alderson, W.Va., to give Stewart a Beatlesque send-off from federal prison.

Stewart already has hired celebrity hairdresser Frederic Fekkai to coiffe her prison-tarnished locks and former Le Cirque chef Pierre Schaedelin to get that crude big-house grub off her palate.
``It's the second coming of Martha,'' Small said. Stewart faces five months of house arrest at her $16 million estate, where she will either be required to wear a bracelet with a set radius or have check-in times. Following her house arrest, Stewart must complete two years of probation and pay $30,000 in fines.

The namesake founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia was convicted last year, along with her stockbroker, of lying about why she dumped shares of ImClone Systems Inc. stock in 2001, just before the price plunged. Back on Wall Street, Stewart's company lost $7.3 million, or 15 cents per share, during the final quarter of 2004 due to a decline in magazine advertising.
While Stewart's lawyers try to convince the Securities Exchange Commission to let her resume her responsibilities as CEO, she has two television deals in the works - one for a revised version of her daily homemaking show, and the other a spinoff of ``The Apprentice.'' In a letter posted on the Martha Stewart Living Web site, magazine editor Margaret Roach wrote that Stewart plans to welcome spring as she always does, in the garden.

``Martha is, indeed, ready to get planting, having ordered her seeds and made extensive to-do lists, just as she would have done in any winter,'' Roach wrote. The letter also states Stewart has been busying herself teaching a nightly yoga class, casting, painting and glazing a ceramic nativity scene as a gift for her mother, reading ``voraciously'' and developing a healthy envy of the crocheting skills of some of the other prisoners.

Martha's 'Homecoming''

Not long ago, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia seemed eager to put as much distance as possible between itself and its famous founder.

After Martha Stewart's conviction a year ago for obstructing justice and lying to investigators, the New York-based company cancelled her columns, downplayed her name in its flagship magazine, and actively promoted a new crop of lifestyle experts in the hopes of stemming mounting losses.

Now, with Stewart, 63, due to be released from prison in little over a week and having undergone an image makeover that surprised critics, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (down $0.43 to $34.56, Research) is reaching out to its namesake with open arms.

In the March issue of Martha Stewart Living and on the company Web site, editor-in-chief Margaret Roach says Stewart will begin penning a new column for the magazine starting in April.

Roach's letter also offers a vivid first-person account of her interaction, through letters and personal visits, with Stewart since she began serving a five-month sentence at the federal prison in Alderson, W. Va., also known as "Camp Cupcake."

Early in her prison term, Stewart herself was posting notes to supporters on her personal Web site, www.MarthaTalks.com. But after a pre-Christmas missive in which she lamented the "bad food" in prison and criminal sentencing guidelines, Stewart has not been directly heard from since.

Stewart is officially due to complete her prison term on March 6. Upon her release she will serve five months of house arrest in Bedford, N.Y., where she's been renovating an estate she bought in 2000.

In the editor's letter, which refers to Stewart's "homecoming," Roach writes about letters exchanged with Martha that describe her "foraging for wild greens, such as dandelion" on the prison grounds to "augment the limited fresh vegetable offerings in the diet," decorating the prison chapel with remnants from the garden, and cooking up impromptu recipes in the microwave with ingredients from the commissary.

Stewart has also been reading "voraciously," including Bob Dylan's memoir and a biography of John James Audubon, the naturalist and renowned bird-lover.

The letter also relates a story about Martha launching into a "downward-facing dog" yoga pose, which turned into a headstand, in the prison visiting room.

The move to include a Martha Stewart column in the monthly magazine represents a change of strategy for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. The company had previously distanced itself from its founder and former Chairman & CEO, after her conviction last March.

But since two Martha Stewart television shows have been announced, a daily lifestyle program and a new version of "The Apprentice", both produced by Mark Burnett, her star has risen.

Waiting for Martha

With the domestic diva about to be sprung, Martha Stewart Living investors are giddy. Time to sell? When a somber Martha Stewart stood before television cameras last fall and announced her decision to go to prison rather than await an appeal on her criminal conviction, the lifestyle pro wistfully said she hoped to be out in time to plant her spring garden.

With just two weeks left to her five-month stay at a federal prison in West Virginia, the 63 year-old Stewart should have plenty of time to tend to her tulips.

Meanwhile, spring appears to have come early to Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, the publishing and retail company Stewart founded and led until her conviction a year ago on charges that she lied to government investigators looking into her well-timed personal stock sale in late 2001.

The New York-based company's stock, at around $35.50 a share, has shot up 300 percent since the eve of Stewart's July sentencing and is trading at record levels.

Investors are betting heavily on the company's future once Stewart returns -- if not as an executive, as the Securities and Exchange Commission wants to prevent, than at least as the creative brains behind it.

Next week, however, investors will likely be reminded that the company's business isn't coming up roses just yet.

First, the bad news

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia is due to announce its 2004 fourth-quarter and year-end results on Feb. 23. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call expect a fourth-quarter loss of 17 cents a share, compared with a profit of 10 cents a share a year earlier. Revenue for the quarter is expected to be down more than 20 percent from the same prior-year period.

And, for the second consecutive year, the company will post a net loss on an estimated 25 percent drop, to $183 million, in revenue.

All five analysts covering Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, according to Thomson First Call, have either a "sell" or "strong-sell" rating on the company's shares.

Michael Meltz, a Bear Stearns analyst, wrote in a research report last month that the recent stock surge has been "overdone" and warned that investors may be overly optimistic about a 2005 rebound at the company.

Dennis McAlpine, an independent analyst, told clients recently he was "hard pressed" to understand the stock's run-up given the company's weak bottom line.

Analysts note the company's core publishing business, dominated by its flagship Martha Stewart Living magazine, remains on shaky ground.

The unit, which contributes the bulk of company revenue, saw annual sales drop from $177 million in 2001, the year before Stewart's legal problems started, to $136 million in 2003 and continued to fall throughout 2004.

The losses have been led by steep declines at Martha Stewart Living. Since 2002, advertising revenue at the monthly magazine has plunged nearly 70 percent, with ad pages off by 65 percent, according to the Publishers Information Bureau.

Company officials have said they don't expect to see an advertising rebound until the second quarter of this year, beginning in April -- a month after Stewart exits prison.

Even if that happens, analysts remain worried about the stiff competition for ad dollars from the likes of O: The Oprah Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens and a flurry of new launches, among them Shop Etc., Cottage Living, and InStyle Home.

"Large national marketers have significant choice....," wrote Meltz, "and MSL is no longer as much of a 'must-buy' as it may have been a few years ago, in our opinion."
Now, some good news

To be sure, Meltz and others note there are encouraging signs that Martha Stewart Living, whose survival as a stand-alone public company was in doubt as Stewart's legal woes worsened last year, has turned a corner.

Late last year, the company axed CEO Sharon Patrick, replacing the longtime Stewart deputy with Susan Lyne, a veteran ABC television executive who helped engineer a turnaround at the Walt Disney-owned network before leaving in a management shakeup last spring.

And a new television deal with Hollywood golden boy Mark Burnett, the creator of hits such as "Survivor" and "The Apprentice," is generating enthusiasm and the positive headlines that the company needed when Martha's legal troubles dominated the news.

Burnett is working on two television shows starring Stewart, a daily syndicated talk show and a spinoff of "The Apprentice" with Stewart as host and judge.

The television projects don't have a big direct upside for Martha Stewart Living. But for a company whose fortunes are tied to Stewart, that may not matter as long as a positive image draws consumers and, in turn, advertisers.

Burnett, for one, is confident that's going to happen. "People love redemption stories," Burnett said during a December press conference about the daily show in development.

Marketing experts agree that the buzz Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia has generated lately is especially good for company business.

Even so, "it's not out of the woods yet," said Robert Passikoff, president and founder of Brand Keys, a New York marketing firm.

Martha's been cooking up a few ideas behind bars

WITH only a month to go before Martha Stewart is freed from jail, I’ve been thinking of making an advent calendar to celebrate. Red gingham wrapping paper attached to a stiff card with double-sided sticky tape. I could make little prison doors and hide a little piece of Martha behind each: perhaps a recipe for oatmeal cookies, or an idea for something clever to do with pine cones.

Last year Stewart, you may recall, was sentenced to five months in jail and five months of house arrest for lying to the authorities over a share sale. She is a huge star in America, but until her arrest it was always felt necessary to describe who she was to those outside the US. Now Martha is one of those first-name-only global celebrities like Oprah or Madonna.
Before hubris dragged her down Stewart, the daughter of a Polish immigrant, had built an unlikely empire on her taste for Waspish New England decor. Her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, ran a television show, magazines, a syndicated column, books and a home wares line. At one point Stewart was worth over $1 billion (€770m).

But the post-millennial stock market crash knocked the froth off Stewart’s cappuccino. Then came the investigation into charges of insider trading and her subsequent conviction for lying over a share sale.

The conviction hurt just about every part of Stewart’s business. Sales of Martha Stewart Everyday products dropped 6.6% at Kmart in the first half of 2004 compared with the previous year. Advertisers pulled out of its magazines, readership dropped and television networks stopped carrying the show Martha Stewart Living.

The company is to shed nearly all its online and catalogue operations, which have continued to lose money despite the boom in internet retailing.

Stewart’s investors don’t seem too worried. In May, shortly before she was sentenced, shares in her company hit a low of $8.25 (€6.40). Now they are close to $35 (€27). Post-prison the stock markets are betting Stewart is going to be bigger than ever.

You cannot doubt how hard she’ll try. Even on the court steps after her sentencing Stewart was fighting for her business: “Perhaps all of you out there can continue to show your support by subscribing to our magazines, by buying our products, by encouraging our advertisers to come back in full force to our magazines.”

Stewart’s commercial rehabilitation was given a boost last week with the announcement that she will present a reality television show based on the one fronted by the tycoon Donald Trump.

Stewart will front her own version of The Apprentice, in which contestants compete for a job, in Stewart’s case an executive post at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. By all accounts, Trump is great to work for. Stewart, pre-jail, was by her own admission a nightmare boss.

Reality TV may not pay off for Martha. Even The Apprentice isn’t what it used to be. But she has another show lined up and her surging share price suggests there are plenty of people willing to bet she can spin a second for- tune out of a prison blanket.

There are supposed to be no second acts in American lives, at least not according to F Scott Fitzgerald, who could have told Stewart all about the risks of faking it with the Wasps. But as the day of her release approaches, the money is on prisoner 55170-054.


Martha Stewart's recipe for reality

AMERICAN lifestyle guru and jailbird Martha Stewart is set to go straight from prison to the small screen, as host of a reality TV show.

With Stewart due for release from prison next month, the NBC television network announced today that casting would begin immediately for the new show The Apprentice: Martha Stewart.
"The series will be infused with Martha's celebrated grit and savvy as she offers others a chance to aspire to turn their dreams into hard-won reality," said Jeff Zucker, president of the NBC Universal Television Group.

Convicted of lying about a dodgy stock sale, Stewart, 63, is serving a five-month sentence in a minimum-security prison in West Virginia.

Her reality show will follow the same general format as The Apprentice in which Trump eliminates a series of candidates for a job with his company.

"I hope (Martha) has as much fun as I do with this venture," Trump said.

NBC producers are clearly hoping that Stewart's new-found notoriety will make her more marketable than ever, following her release from prison.

The multi-millionaire founder of the Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO) empire was convicted in March last year of lying to federal agents investigating her sale of nearly 4000 shares in biotechnology company ImClone Systems.

After her release next month, she will serve five months under house arrest.

Martha Stewart Set for Apprentice Spin Off

NBC has announced plans for a new version of The Apprentice featuring domestic diva Martha Stewart as host. The series will be executive produced by Donald Trump and Mark Burnett.

The Apprentice: Martha Stewart will retain the general format of the Trump edition, including weekly eliminations. The tasks, however, will be centered around Stewart's areas of expertise: media, home renovation, entertaining, design, merchandising, technology and style. "The series will be infused with Martha's celebrated grit and savvy as she offers others a chance to aspire to turn their dreams into hard-won reality," said Jeff Zucker, the president of NBC Universal Television Group.

Burnett added, "Martha Stewart is an American icon and was the world's first self-made female billionaire. Donald Trump gives thousands of Americans the opportunity to apply to learn from and work for the most dynamic real estate tycoon in the country, while Martha Stewart offers her wonderful creative vision and expertise in the worlds of television, publishing and merchandising. This diversity of opportunity for both viewers and applicants will take our franchise to new heights."

NBC and Burnett are also working on a syndicated daytime series for Stewart that is set to launch in the fall. Stewart is currently serving time for lying to federal investigators about her sale of stock in ImClone.

Convicted home guru Martha Stewart to star in reality TV show

Martha Stewart, the American domestic guru behind bars for lying about a sale of shares, is to host a reality television show in which contestants compete to impress her with their business acumen.

Stewart, 63, whose financial fortunes have prospered since she began her five-month prison sentence, could start shooting The Apprentice: Martha Stewart as soon as she is released next month, even though she will still be under house arrest.

Producers said they were confident that the electronic tag she will have to wear can be hidden from viewers.

The NBC show, which begins casting today, is a spin-off of a series starring the property tycoon Donald Trump, in which would-be business executives vie to land a job with his company.

In the Stewart show, up to 18 contestants will try to win a one-year contract worth £120,000 with her company.

Like Mr Trump, she is expected to be paid nearly $100,000 (£53,000) an episode.

Mark Burnett, the show's British-born producer, said Stewart was allowed to work 40 hours a week on her release.

"Legally, we can absolutely begin while she's under house arrest. She's entitled to make a living - which is obviously in TV, radio and merchandising - and this falls into the TV part of what she does," he said.

There has been speculation that Stewart had broken prison rules by conducting business while serving her five-month sentence at Alderson jail in West Virginia.

However, Mr Burnett insisted yesterday that he had never discussed television with her on his visits to the prison.

Mr Burnett said he did not expect Stewart would copy Trump's hard-boiled persona. On his show he dismisses unlucky contestants with the phrase: "You're fired."

"I'm going to allow Martha to be Martha," Mr Burnett said. "We've got two icons here. Both are very dynamic. Both franchises, while very different, will do very well."

Mr Trump, who recently married for the third time, described Stewart as a "very brave woman".

Stewart was convicted last year of lying about why she sold shares in a company just before their price plunged.

'Apprentice' deal boosts Stewart stock

Go to prison, get a TV deal, watch your stock near an all-time high. That may not be everyone's idea of the American dream, but it's the way things are working out for domestic maven and convicted felon Martha Stewart.

Shares of the lifestyle expert's eponymous company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO: news, chart, profile) , closed higher Thursday by another $1.53, or 4.7 percent, to $34.46. The stock jump comes a day after NBC said it would feature Stewart in a new version of its hit reality series "The Apprentice."

Martha Stewart Living shares are nearing an all-time high of $36.63, reached when the company first went public in November 1999.

Stewart is expected to be released from federal custody in March upon finishing a five-month sentence related to her sales of stock. She's then set to begin another five-month period of home confinement.

NBC said Wednesday that it is launching a new edition of "The Apprentice," its reality series that pits young business people against each other for a chance to work alongside Donald Trump.

"The Apprentice: Martha Stewart" will keep the same basic format of weekly trials, tribulations and eliminations, but with Stewart bringing her "own sensibilities and creativity" to the process, according to a network statement.

"The series will be infused with Martha's celebrated grit and savvy as she offers others a chance to aspire to turn their dreams into hard-won reality," said Jeff Zucker, president of NBC Universal Television Group.

Trump won't be left out of the picture, though. He's going to serve as an executive producer along with Mark Burnett, the man who brought the "Survivor" series to CBS.

"I'm thrilled to offer my good friend Martha Stewart the opportunity to join me in the success of 'The Apprentice,'" Trump said in a press release.

Casting calls are scheduled to begin Thursday in New York, Detroit and Houston, with rounds continuing in 24 other cities until Feb. 26.


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