Back in this century, Stewart, the founder of the company that bears her name, was America's first self-made female billionaire. Five years after her company went public, however, Stewart went to prison for conspiracy as part of the ImClone stock case.
And then she went gently into that good night.... Heck no, she didn't! Stewart launched her comeback campaign immediately after her release. Her company was profitable again within a year, and she rejoined its board of directors in 2011. She currently serves as chairman.
Martha Stewart was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, on August 3, 1941. She is the second of six children born to middle-class parents, Edward "Eddie" Kostyra (1912–1979) and Martha Ruszkowski Kostyra (1914–2007), and is of entirely Polish heritage. When Stewart was three years old, the family moved to Nutley.
In September 1997, with the assistance of business partner Sharon Patrick, Stewart was able to secure funding to purchase the various television, print, and merchandising ventures related to the Martha Stewart brand, and consolidate them into a new company, named Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Stewart served as chairman, president, and CEO of the new company and Patrick became Chief Operations Officer.
By organizing all of the brand's assets under one roof, Stewart felt she could promote synergy and have greater control of the brand's direction through the business's activities. That same month, Stewart announced in Martha Stewart Living the launch of a companion website and a catalogue business, called Martha by Mail. The company also had a direct-to-consumer floral business.
On October 19, 1999, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia went public on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol MSO. The initial public offering was set at $18 per share, and rallied to $38 by the end of trading, making Stewart a billionaire on paper and the first female, self-made billionaire in the US.
The stock price slowly went down to $16 per share by February 2002. Stewart was then and continues to be the majority shareholder, commanding 96% control of voting power in the company.