Monday, February 21, 2005

Go Directly to Jail...Do Collect $500 Million

She who laughs last:

Incarceration has worked a miracle on Martha Stewart's bottom line, restoring the disgraced domestic diva to billionaire status. She has watched her fortunes soar while serving a five-month jail sentence, during which she was forbidden by law to conduct any business.

The 63-year-old homemaking queen will emerge from prison on March 6 more than $500 million (£264 million) richer on paper, after shares in her retail and publishing company soared on the back of a new reality television deal and higher licensing fees.

Shares in Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia slumped as low as $8.25 in May, as she awaited sentencing after her conviction for lying to investigators about a personal stock deal. That prompted headlines such as "Martha Inc can't survive".

Last Friday, however, the shares closed at $34.99, valuing the company at $1.74 billion. Stewart owns just less than 60 per cent, giving her a stake of about $1.02 billion.

....Executives at her company told the New York Times that licensing fees for the daytime show were "trending significantly higher" than those for Stewart's original show, Martha Stewart Living, when her popularity was at its peak.

....according to her friend Barbara Walters....who visited her recently... Stewart had lost 20lb, was in "good spirits", had made friends with prisoners and taught yoga classes.

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