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Last Updated: Friday, 5 March, 2004, 20:51 GMT
Profile: Martha Stewart
Martha Stewart is a household name in the United States, thanks to her stable of books, magazines and multimedia offerings - all of which tell the American public how to eat, dress, marry, garden and entertain in greater style.

Martha Stewart after a court appearance in New York in June
Martha Stewart's image has taken a battering
For millions of US consumers, she is the high priestess of lifestyle advice.

For investors, she was a successful chief executive, sitting on the board of the New York Stock Exchange. Her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, is a business powerhouse, with revenues of $295m in 2002.

Ms Stewart stepped down as chairwoman and chief executive after being indicted but remains a board member and the most influential shareholder.

While her refined offerings may not sit well with the Texas lifestyle popularised by President George W Bush, she is as American as apple pie.

The 62-year-old's face used to beam from dozens of magazine covers - not least those produced by her own company.

However, the guilty verdicts handed out by the Manhattan jury could strike a devastating blow against her image.

Trademark skills

Born in August 1941 in New Jersey as Martha Kostyra, she grew up in a household that was decidedly not prosperous.

And early on, in her teens, she showed her trademark skills - making her own dresses, inventing new recipes for cakes, and taking on the gardening.

Fashion model scouts soon discovered her on the streets of New York, but strutting on the cat walk was not for Martha.

She left to study art history at Barnard College, where she met Andy Stewart, the son of a Wall Street stockbroker.

Shortly after their wedding in 1961 she began to invest in the stock market - the foundation of the family fortune.

Ms Stewart's true strength, though, was "home making", a passion she discovered when the family bought a derelict house in Westport, Connecticut, and she took charge of its renovation.

When she opened a gourmet food shop, it was an instant success. A catering business for big companies and celebrities followed.

Entertaining, her own guide book to being the perfect host, made her a household name in the US.

Expansion

In the 1980s she became famous - or notorious - for being a workaholic, and had to fend off a string of accusations that she took undue credit for the work and inspirations of others.

And not all was well in Martha Stewart's perfect world. In 1987 she divorced her husband of 28 years.

A deal with Time Warner enabled her to expand her operations dramatically, although she later managed to claw back control over her own brand.

The Martha Stewart empire reaches well beyond the United States. The company has operations in Canada, Brazil and Japan, and had high hopes of making inroads into Europe as well.

At one point, Ms Stewart hoped to take Korea and then China, the world's biggest market, by storm.




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