Throughout December, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Martha Stewart Living magazine, I will examine 25 of the most memorable and influential people, moments and milestones at Martha Stewart's company over the last quarter century: the Martha Moments that fans are especially grateful for. I hope you enjoy these reflections on twenty-five years of excellence!
DECEMBER 14: MARTHA'S BIG DAY - GOING PUBLIC
On October 19th, 1999, Martha Stewart realized the full potential of her dream: she took her self-made company public. It was not long after she bought back her company from Time Warner that Martha and her company's CEO, Sharon Patrick, embarked on one of the most talked about initial public offerings of that decade.
Joining Martha on the balcony of the NYSE is William Johnston (the president of the NYSE at the time) Sharon Patrick (the president and CEO of MSLO at the time) and behind Martha is Alexis Stewart, Martha's daughter.
What was so remarkable about it was that by the end of that day, stock in Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia had almost doubled its initial offering price of $18 to end at $35.56 per share! As the principle shareholder, this made Martha Stewart a billionaire, literally overnight. On this day, Martha became America's first self-made female billionaire!
Excitement at the NYSE was palpable that day. Martha had festooned the entire exterior of the building with large Martha Stewart Living banners in bright orange. Parked outside the building was an 18-wheeler Kmart truck emblazoned with the Martha Stewart Everyday logo. Right beside it, was the Martha by Mail truck, a vintage UPS truck that Martha had painted turquoise. After the opening bell, which Martha rang herself, she tossed Martha Stewart Living baseball caps from the balcony to the frenzied traders below and later joined her staff outside under a large tent at the base of the stairs to the NYSE to serve homemade brioche, scones and freshly-squeezed orange juice to the traders. The tent was decorated with elaborately-carved Halloween jack-o-lanters, dried corn stalks and autumnal garlands. This was the ultimate Martha day!
For the first four years after the IPO, Martha's company was debt free and steadily profitable. But shares in Omnimedia never again reached the levels of that first day on the stock market and the company's value diminished significantly during the years Martha was involved in a serious legal battle. Martha lost more than $2 billion in personal wealth during that period as the valuation of her company plummeted. It was announced last week that shares in Martha Stewart Living would no longer be traded and that the stock would be dissolved. Now that the company is owned by Sequential Brands, MSO will not be traded as an independent, public company.
The company has come full circle, but what an astounding journey it has been! I know that I will always regard Martha's "big day" as one of most significant in the history of American business. I'm sure Martha remembers it very fondly, too!