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Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart (born August 3, 1941) is a popular American television and magazine personality known for her cooking, gardening, etiquette, arts-and-craft projects, and as a general lifestyle guide and homemaker.

Born Martha Helen Kostyra in Jersey City, New Jersey, she grew up in Nutley, New Jersey with four brothers and sisters. A good student, she received a partial scholarship to Barnard College in New York City, where she worked part time as a model to help pay her expenses. She initially intended to major in chemistry but switched to art, European history and architectural history[?]. After graduation, she pursued her budding modeling career and starred in several television commercials. She stopped modelling in 1965 when she had a daughter, Alexis, with husband Andrew Stewart[?], a law student she met in college. Martha and Andrew divorced in 1990.

After modelling, she began pursuing her second career as a stock broker. She continued in this profession until 1973 when recession hit Wall Street. She and her husband then moved to Westport, Connecticut[?] and began restoration of an 1805 farmhouse which is seen in her television programs and where she still lives today. In later years, she began a successful catering business out of her home and began writing columns and articles on topics such as cooking, gardening, and home furnishing.

Stewart rose to national prominence with regular appearances on NBC's The Today Show. She became a spokesperson for K-Mart. During the 1980s, she was a contributing editor to Family Circle[?] magazine, and in 1990, she started her own magazine, Martha Stewart Living[?]. In 1993, she began hosting a half-hour syndicated television show by the same name. She soon introduced her own line of home products under the name "The Martha Stewart Everyday Collection." She also hosts a cooking show on the Food Network[?] called From Martha's Kitchen and a gardening show on Home and Garden TV[?] called From Martha's Garden. She also founded a website, MarthaStewart.com (http://www.marthastewart.com/), to promote her products.

In 1999, she founded the company Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia[?] traded on the New York Stock Exchange to combine and control all her enterprises under one corporate entity. She became its chief executive officer and chairman until 2003. Stewart owns approximately 61% of the equity of the company and 94% of the voting power.

As she rose in stature, Stewart became an easy target for mockery[?] and parody on late-night talk shows and Saturday Night Live. Comedians mocked her persona of perfection and her intense attention to the esoteric details of such typically uninteresting topics as ambrosia salad or leaf decorating ideas for tablecloths. She is often the subject of ridicule from late night comedians such as Jay Leno, David Letterman, Conan O'Brien, and Jimmy Kimmel[?].

In 2002, Stewart was under investigation for insider trading for selling 3,928 shares of ImClone Systems on December 27, 2001. On December 28, the Food and Drug Administration announced it would not review ImClone's application for Erbitux[?], which the company touted as a promising cancer drug. ImClone's stock plunged over 70% in the month after the news came out. Stewart has been a friend of ImClone founder Samuel Waksal, who has since pleaded guilty to six counts of wrongdoing related to insider trading before the announcement. On June 6, 2002, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, which was already investigating dubious ImClone trading, announced that it was probing Stewart's stock sale. On October 3, 2002, Stewart resigned from the board of directors of the New York Stock Exchange. Through all the investigation and allegation, Stewart kept her public persona intact, focusing on her homemaking specialties and downplaying or ignoring the increasing clamor for answers about her role in the scandal.

On June 4, 2003, a federal grand jury in Manhattan indicted Stewart and her former broker Peter Bacanovic on nine criminal counts from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). By selling when she did, the government alleges Stewart avoided losses of $45,673. The charges included securities fraud[?], obstruction of justice, and conspiracy. Stewart was not indicted on the original charge of insider trading, but only for the alleged coverup that ensued. Conviction on any of the criminal counts could bring several years in prison and/or heavy fines. Stewart maintained her innocence, pleading not guilty, saying she had a standing order with Bacanovic to sell her shares if ImClone stock fell below $60. Stewart resigned as CEO and chairman of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia on the same day she was indicted, but remained on the company's board. The SEC later filed a related civil suit against Stewart with charges of insider trading. Stewart's trial was set for January 12, 2004, at the request of her lawyers who said they needed plenty of time to analyze the evidence.

The day after her indictment, Stewart took out a full-page advertisement in USA Today and launched a website with an open letter of defense "to my friends and loyal supporters." She said, "I want you to know that I am innocent - and that I will fight to clear my name... The government's attempt to criminalize these actions makes no sense to me... I am confident I will be exonerated of these baseless charges."

Stewart owns upscale homes in Connecticut and The Hamptons.

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