Martha Stewart signed a “long term commitment” to remain as Chief Creative Officer of her media and merchandising properties, according to the agreement announced this morning to sell her company to Sequential Brands Group. The domestic diva also will be a “significant shareholder” and board member of a new public holding company.
But other Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia shareholders seem unimpressed with the agreement to sell the troubled media and merchandising company to Sequential for $6.15 a share split between stock and cash. Martha Stewart Living’s stock price is down 13.3% to $6.05. It closed on Friday at $6.98 after word of the deal negotiations spread.
Investors appear to believe that nobody will top Sequential’s offer in the 30-day “go shop” period Stewart has as part of the deal. The terms must be approved by a majority of her company’s outside shareholders — that is, those not including Stewart who otherwise controls nearly 90% of the voting shares. The companies expect the acquisition to take place by year end.
“This merger is positioned to further the growth and expansion of the unique Martha home and lifestyle brand,” Stewart says. After agreeing last year to let magazine company Meredith publish Martha Stewart Living and other publications “we now have the opportunity to tap into Sequential’s expertise and resources to expand our merchandising business both domestically and abroad.”
Sequential owns, manages, and licenses consumer brands including Ellen Tracy, Avia, Revo, Caribbean Joe, Linens ‘N Things, and The Franklin Mint. In the new deal it will pick up branded merchandise tied to Stewart and celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse.
Stewart launched her company in 1997 and took it public in 1999. But it has faded over the last decade. In late 2013 it hired a turnaround specialist from the metals industry, Daniel Dienst, to be CEO and focus on merchandising. He replaced former Oxygen Media exec Lisa Gersh who left at the end of 2012 after holding the top job for just five months. She had been president and chief operating officer at Stewart’s company since 2011 and was expected to beef up its TV programming after Hallmark Channel decided not to renew The Martha Stewart Show.
In 2006 Stewart agreed to leave the company for five years as part of a deal with the SEC which dropped a civil case against her in the ImClone insider trading investigation. She also served a five-month jail term after she was convicted of obstructing a government investigation.