Martha's Endgame

With the founder sentenced to prison, her troubled company plans to invent a new identity for itself

Near the peak of her company's success, Martha Stewart inadvertently summed up both the strength and the vulnerability of the empire she had built. At an advertising-industry conference in Detroit in 2001, she was speaking to a crowd of starstruck ad executives when somewhere in the crowd, a voice piped up with a fawning question. "Someone asked her, 'You dispense all this advice. Who taught you all these things? Who's your mentor?'" recalls Samir Husni, a magazine consultant who also spoke at the meeting. "She said, 'Me. Me. I did it all by myself.'"

That unyielding self-reliance helped build Martha Stewart...

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