Martha Stewart’s crumbling empire just got devoured

Martha will still be Martha.
Martha will still be Martha.
Image: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP
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Going public: October 1999.
Going public: October 1999.
Image: AP Photo/Richard Drew

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, the publishing and licensing company built around an image of impeccable—if unrealistic—domestic bliss has just been devoured by brand management and licensing firm Sequential Brands.

The deal marks the end of Martha Stewart’s run as an independent company. (It went public in a 1999 IPO.) In recent years, it has suffered from sagging sales related to its core publishing business, as licensing and merchandising emerged as the company’s prime driver.

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Stewart came back to the company—most recently serving as non-executive chairman—after being convicted of lying in connection with a government investigation of stock sales, and serving time in prison in 2004. But she wasn’t able to resuscitate its flailing publishing and broadcasting divisions after its audience dropped off.

With its purchase of the company, Sequential Brands is hoping to benefit from a resurgence in Martha Stewart’s retail business, which sells bedding, furniture, and housewares, where the brand still carries considerable weight.