Saturday, June 16, 2007

The perils of success

Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart hit the billion dollar mark behind bars but lost a fortune soon after when her shares plunged 40 per cent / Photo AFP

Martha Stewart born on August 3, 1941 is an American business icon, author, and rose to fame after she started a catering business. She is also a former stockbroker and fashion model.

Over the last two decades Stewart has held a prominent position in the American publishing industry; as the author of several books, hundreds of articles on the domestic arts, editor of a national homekeeping magazine, host for two popular daytime television programs, and commercial spokeswoman for K-Mart.

In 2001 she was named the third most powerful woman in America by Ladies Home Journal.

In 2004, a panel of eight women and four men found Martha Stewart guilty on all four counts of obstructing justice and lying to investigators about a well-timed stock sale, and she was sentenced to jail. She was barred from serving on a public company Board of Directors and from serving in certain executive capacities for five years.

The damning verdict was reflected in the words of David Kelley, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, who spoke outside the courthouse.

"The word is -- beware -- and don't engage in this type of conduct because it will not be tolerated."

One of the jurors said, "This is a victory for the little guys. No one is above the law."

Martha Stewart was already in prison when she became a billionaire. Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia soared 90% during her five-month stint for obstruction of justice, and she hit the $US1 billion mark behind bars. Soon after she left, her shares dropped 40%. Today she is worth only about $US550 million.

Breaking the law doesn’t always leave you richer. Former Enron chairman Kenneth Lay lost more than $US400 million in 2001 as Enron collapsed in one of the greatest corporate falls in history. But he wasn’t even the biggest loser in the Enron debacle.

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