Martha Stewart Says She’s Richer Than Ever After Merger, Jail Stint

Martha Stewart didn’t let a little five-month jail stint bring her down. In a new interview posted by Business Insider at the Cannes Lions festival, the lifestyle guru revealed that she is richer than ever after serving time in prison and merging Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO) into Sequential Brands, the company that owns Avia, Jessica Simpson, and Emeril Lagasse, among others media brands.

“It’s good, it’s very good,” Stewart said of the merger, which closed late last year. “It’s taken some pressure off me. It has enabled me to own more companies. I now own parts of 20-something other companies. So I am learning more. And the new young management at Sequential, the CEO is 34 years old – I love working with a younger bunch. I think it was the exact right thing for me to do. So it’s a breath of fresh air. And I’m richer!”

Before dishing on her latest business move, Stewart recalled that fateful October day in 1999 when the multimedia empire she built from her at-home catering business launched its initial public offering. The day Stewart rang the bell on the New York Stock Exchange, her stock tripled in value by closing, making her an instant billionaire.

“That was a great day,” Martha said. “I drove up Madison Avenue after the offering. I was an instant $1.6 billionaire. It was a fabulous day and I thought, huh… I can buy anything on this street! …Like at every art gallery on the way up Madison Avenue, and just bought what I loved. But I was too busy working.”

Five years later, Martha Stewart had a setback when she was convicted of ImClone stock fraud conspiracy, but even then she took lemons and made lemonade. Or jam out of crab apples. In another Q&A at Cannes, Stewart said she passed the time in prison by doing crafts and whipping up delicacies for the fellow inmates, according to Business Insider.

“That’s why I made jam out of the crab apples on the trees,” Stewart revealed.

In addition to her kitchen time, Martha Stewart got to crafting—ceramics, specifically— while incarcerated at Alderson Federal Prison Camp in West Virginia.

“You’re allowed to make three things in a year, I think, and I only had five months so I [made] an entire creche … the entire scene of the nativity,” Stewart explained. “So I had many figures, something like 15 figures, and you’re only allowed to make three, but I persuaded them the whole nativity was one and they fell for it. You couldn’t just make three camels — you had to make everything.”

Stewart said that she worked on her ceramic figures well into the night, meticulously crafting them out of Wedgwood Drabwear, and she even taught some of the other prisoners how to make the pottery.

More than 10 years later, Martha Stewart has a permanent reminder of her prison stint when she brings the nativity set out each Christmas.

“Everyone wants the nativity, every Christmas and people always say: ‘Where did you get that from?’ My [prison] number’s on it, still!” Stewart revealed.

Martha Stewart revealed that while her finances didn’t suffer after her prison sentence, advertising in her magazine did. The lifestyle guru thinks the companies that pulled their ads from Martha Stewart Living magazine were foolish, but in the end, it didn’t hurt her brand.

“[The brand] did not suffer it at all,” Martha said. “It was in good hands at that time and when I came out, the stock price was higher than when I had gone in.”

Martha Stewart’s comments about her company come one year after the Wall Street Journal first reported on her pending deal with Sequential Brands Group. The report revealed that the sale of MSLO would mark the end of the independent publishing and housewares conglomerate that Martha Stewart launched after the success of her 1982 book, Entertaining.

Take a look at the video below to see Martha Stewart talking about her prison stint at Cannes Lions Festival 2016.

[Photo by Denis Contreras/Getty Images for SOBEWFF®]