Stewart’s Firm Taps Ex-Exec at ABC as CEO

Times Staff Writer

She’s going from “Desperate Housewives” to helping housewives -- and, perhaps, shareholders of Martha Stewart’s embattled company.

Susan Lyne, former president of ABC Entertainment, on Thursday was named president and chief executive of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. Lyne replaced Sharon Patrick, who resigned, the company said in a statement.

Stewart, the company’s founder and guiding force, is serving a five-month prison sentence for obstruction of justice after she lied about a stock trade. Her legal troubles in the last 2 1/2 years have cast a long shadow over the company bearing her name.

Many advertisers abandoned the company’s lifestyle magazine, Martha Stewart Living, and its syndicated television show was shelved. The once-profitable company lost $2.8 million in 2003 as revenue fell 17%. It has lost money each quarter this year.


Lyne must figure out how to reposition the company for growth and how best to involve Stewart once she is released from prison in March. The company has four business segments -- publishing, television, merchandising and Internet, or direct commerce.

“There is a lot of goodwill right now, and we have a really strong brand and great resources,” Lyne said in an interview. “Now is the time for us to gear up and get back to doing what this company does best, which is creating content.”

Lyne said she had long been an acquaintance of Stewart but got to know her better after joining the company’s board in June. Stewart was informed of the management shuffle but didn’t participate in picking Lyne.

“Martha is really eager to come back to work to do what she does better than anyone, and that is creating,” Lyne said.

In April, ABC’s corporate parent, Walt Disney Co., fired Lyne from her job overseeing the network’s prime-time entertainment schedule. It was Lyne who saw the promise in a show called “Desperate Housewives,” which went on to become this TV season’s biggest new hit.

Martha Stewart Omnimedia Chairman Thomas C. Siekman lauded Lyne’s “proven track record in the media industry.”

Her credentials include seven years at ABC and 15 years in publishing. Lyne was managing editor of the Village Voice and launched Premiere Magazine for News Corp.

She joined Disney in 1996 and was in charge of miniseries before being promoted to ABC entertainment chief. She helped develop the shows that have helped ABC’s ratings rebound.


The announcement was made after the markets closed. In regular trading Thursday, shares of Martha Stewart Omnimedia rose 5 cents to $18.62 on the New York Stock Exchange.