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Martha Stewart CEO Lyne steps down

Image: Martha Stewart and Susan Lyne
Susan Lyne, right, has stepped down as CEO of the company founded by homemaking doyenne Martha Stewart, seen here at a 2007 event.Brad Barket / Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

Susan Lyne has stepped down for undisclosed reasons after four years as chief executive of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. and the job is being split between two company executives.

The New York-based media company said Wednesday that Wenda Harris Millard, who is currently president of media at Martha Stewart, and Robin Marino, president of merchandising, would be co-CEOs.

The company also announced in a regulatory filing Wednesday that it will form an advisory committee, called the office of the chairman, to focus on the strategic direction of the company.

The committee will be comprised of the two new co-CEOs, Chairman Charles Koppelman, chief creative officer Gael Towey and the company’s founder, Martha Stewart.

The company did not disclose a reason for Lyne’s departure.

“While there is never a perfect time to depart, the company is on sound footing and we expect the transition to be very smooth,” Lyne said in a statement. Lyne, who is also stepping down as president, will remain a director and an adviser for an unspecified transition period.

Lynne, who became chief executive in late 2004, led the recovery and expansion of the media company, which had been dragged down by its namesake founder’s personal legal woes. Stewart has been back in the limelight with her own TV show and other projects since March 2005, when she completed her prison sentence for lying about a stock sale.

In August 2006, Stewart accepted a five-year ban as part of a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission on being a company director and agreed to limits for the same period on her service as an officer or employee of a public company.

Martha Stewart Living swung to a profit of $10.3 million, or 20 cents per share, in 2007 from a loss of $17 million, or 33 cents per share, in 2006. Revenue rose 14 percent to $327.9 million, helped by improvements in its broadcast, publishing and merchandising divisions.

But the stock has lost three-quarters of its value during Lyne’s tenure, falling from a high of about $37 in February 2005 to below $8. Shares fell 43 cents, or 5.4 percent, to $7.55 in morning trading Wednesday, near the lower end of their 52-week range of $5.22 to $18.28.

Millard, who joined the company last July, was previously chief sales officer of Internet company Yahoo Inc.

Marino was president and operating chief of accessories maker Kate Spade until she joined the company in 2005.