The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Friday, March 04, 2005  

Time Flies . . . On the Outside

Now that publishing executive Martha Stewart is out of federal prison, having served her sentence and been thoroughly punished for what came to be called obstruction of justice, I know I feel much safer in my person and property.

Some notes from the leading newspapers:

“Out of Prison, Martha Stewart May Now Face A Tougher Trial,” by Ben White and Frank Ahrens, the Washington Post. Pull quotes:

“[T]here are questions about how Stewart will work with the company’s strong new chief executive, Susan M. Lyne, a widely respected former ABC entertainment head who is moving to put her own mark on the company. This week, the company’s publisher and executive vice president, Suzanne Sobel, said she was quitting to pursue “new challenges.”

When Stewart officially returns to work, she will take the title of “founder.” While she could technically reassume the chief executive job, legal experts say she is unlikely to do so because she still faces a Securities and Exchange Commission civil suit that seeks to bar her for life from serving as a director at a public company and limit her ability to serve as an officer. The SEC case is suspended until Stewart completes the appeal of her criminal conviction.

The SEC would not view a quick reemergence as chief executive warmly, said a source familiar with the agency's views who spoke on the condition of anonymity because settlement talks are underway. Such a move could undermine a possible deal that would allow Stewart to ultimately return to a top executive job and a board seat in a number of years.

“Stewart Returns Home After Five Months in Federal Prison,” by Stephanie Rosenbloom, the New York Times. Pull quote: “‘It feels great,’ she said of being back home, according to an Associated Press account. Talking briefly about food, she allowed that while in prison she had missed ‘the idea of cappuccino’ more than the beverage itself.”

“Martha is now a free woman,” by Suzette Parmley and Miriam Hill, the Philadelphia Inquirer. Pull quote: “[P]rison may have been her smartest career move yet. Stewart appears more popular than ever. She graced the cover of Newsweek this week. Kmart Holding Corp.’s pending merger with Sears, Roebuck & Co. means her line of furniture and kitchenware will be sold in twice as many stores. She is once again a billionaire, as the value of her shares in Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia rose $688 million over her time in jail, or $32.8 million per week.”

“Time Well Spent,” by Jonathan Curiel, San Francisco Chronicle. Lead paragraph: “Not since 1939, when Al Capone was released from a seven-year incarceration, has the American public been as fascinated by the end of a jail sentence.”

And finally, “Martha’s Big Break (Out),” the Philadelphia Daily News, by April Lisante. Misguided reporting:

But almost from the moment Stewart voluntarily agreed to start her prison term last September, the public outcry to “Save Martha” kicked into full gear (, and the wheels of her public-relations machine were churning.

“I must reclaim my good life and I must return to my good works” she told reporters at a news conference in September, announcing she’d voluntarily hit the clink immediately and be out in time to sow her flower garden.

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia stock shot up that day from just over 10 cents to more than $11. [Emphasis added.]

If Ms. Lisante or her editors can show me a stock-price chart showing the company’s shares ever traded for 10 cents I’ll eat my Martha Stewart Everyday bedding. All of it.

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