Martha Inc.: The Incredible Story of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia

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9780471429586: Martha Inc.: The Incredible Story of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia

Martha Stewart has generated an enormous following by establishing herself as the leading authority for all things domestic and in the process created a multimillion-dollar enterprise and a personal net worth of nearly $2 billion. As one of the most successful self-made female business owners in American history, Martha Stewart is a topic of interest for fans, business professionals and would--be entrepreneurs alike. "Martha Inc." tells the compelling story of how this complex woman created an empire on domesticity and examines her business inside and out. Through an engaging narrative by popular columnist Christopher Byron, this book chronicles how the business was built, what it took to take it public, and the personal and professional transformation Martha has undergone to make it all work. To get a true portrait of the woman whose work ethic is her personal life, Byron delves into the underreported facets of Martha's past, such as the effects her challenging childhood and years on Wall Street have had on her uncompromising business acumen. From "Martha Stewart Living magazine" and marthastewart.com to a K-Mart line of houseware products, a line of house paints, and a television show, this book details how a former caterer from Connecticut has created a media and merchandising empire, pulling off what large media corporations with vast resources struggle to accomplish. Martha Stewart has sold America on good taste and now readers can learn exactly how she did it and what drives her to keep conquering new vistas. A corporate biography as well as a success story worthy of Horatio Alger, "Martha Inc." also delves into how a cult of personality is created and how Martha Stewart capitalized on the zeitgeist that characterized the last half of the twentieth century. This book is a must read for anyone who has been touched by Martha's marketing savvy or who dreams of making it big.

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Review:

There's probably no woman in America who is as famous--or controversial--as Martha Stewart. In Martha Inc. Christopher Byron gets past the public persona to tell how "the quiet little girl from the house on Elm Place" became the "richest self-made businesswoman in America." While Byron acknowledges that Stewart has a good side, there's not much evidence of it here; much of the book focuses on the darker aspects of Stewart's private life that were first popularized in Jerry Oppenheimer's mean-spirited Just Desserts. Unlike Oppenheimer's account, however, Byron keeps the mudslinging in check by also chronicling her amazing business success as "one of the most potent and effective brands in the history of American marketing." He details her relationships with Kmart, Group W, and Time-Warner, noting that her maneuvering to buy her company back from Time-Warner was "easily the greatest financial coup in the history of American publishing." The result is an interesting and often scandalous story of a woman who proves to be far more complicated than the image her media empire projects. --Harry C. Edwards

From the Inside Flap:

From housewife to billionaire CEO, Martha Stewart is not just the businesswoman with the Midas touch, she is also a lightning rod for many of the most important and controversial social and economic issues of post-WWII American life.

In the unauthorized Martha Inc.: The Incredible Story of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, business writer and columnist Christopher Byron traces Martha’s journey from the troubled world of a working class family in New Jersey to the pinnacle of fame and power as the head of the billion dollar business bearing her name. In Martha Inc., Byron shows that the great irony in Martha’s triumph is that she has grown to global fame by celebrating a domestic life she never actually knew. Out of an imagined bliss, Martha created a media and merchandising empire devoted to the celebration of home, food, and family.

Martha Stewart's story is part Horatio Alger success story and part "Citizen Kane" drama, reaching from the modest homes of Nutley, New Jersey, to the palatial estates of Long Island, from the suburban kitchens of Connecticut to the boardrooms of Wall Street. At each step of the way, Byron gets inside Martha’s world, from her troubled working class upbringing to her years of peddling speculative stocks on Wall Street in the go-go 60s. Thereafter, Byron follows Martha through the ordeal of her failing marriage to the launch of her magazine. Finally, we accompany Martha in her triumphant and climactic return to Wall Street at century’s end to sell stock in her company in an IPO that would make her a billionaire. Byron attends, through fly-on-the-wall sources, executive meetings with some of the most powerful individuals in American business to watch as they try to deal with a woman who emerged from nowhere to overpower them all. He eavesdrops as they bad-mouth her as she leaves the room, often with a fabulous deal in her hand. He watches as they discover, only too late, this former housewife outsmarts them at their own game. Martha Inc. gets up-close-and-personal with the personality of Martha, one of the most complex and driven people in the history of business.

All this and more unfolds in the pages of Martha Inc.–a compelling three-dimensional view of the woman, her business, and her unique hold on domestic culture. Set against the backdrop of the vast changes that reshaped the role of women in post-WWII American life–the stages of which became rungs on a ladder Martha climbed to success–this is Martha's story, a saga filled with power, drama, conflict, and tragedy.

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