Homepage

    SAVE   |   EMAIL   |   PRINT   |   RSS  
Martha, out and about
Celebrity leaves prison, gets settled at home; a morning walk to feed the horses.
March 4, 2005: 3:15 PM EST
By Krysten Crawford, CNN/Money staff writer
pic
An aerial view of Stewart's property in Bedford, N.Y.
Video More video
Martha Stewart makes her first public appearance since returning to her Bedford, N.Y., home from federal prison Friday morning.
premium content Play video
Timeline
Photo gallery+See more photos
Martha's Odyssey
More on Martha Stewart
The new Martha
Martha: Tale of two prisons
Martha's exit will be televised
Martha's face, model's body on Newsweek
 QUICK VOTE  
Now that Martha Stewart is out of jail, is Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia stock a good investment?
  Yes
  No

   View results
Video More video
Watch Martha Stewart arrive at the airport with her daughter after being released from the prison.
premium content Play video
Video More video
A closer look at what Martha Stewart can and can't do during her house arrest. CNN's Kelly Wallace reports.
premium content Play video

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Martha Stewart took a morning stroll around her Bedford, N.Y., estate Friday, savoring her freedom after leaving a West Virginia prison and flying home overnight.

"It feels great to be home -- do you guys want any coffee or donuts -- I haven't had breakfast yet," Stewart said to members of the media as she toured the grounds of her property and fed her horses Friday morning.

She also told reporters that she didn't miss cappuccino, she missed the idea of cappuccino.

"This is a funny story, all of us asked the guards everyday for a cappuccino...just as a joke," she said. "They had their cups of coffee and stuff, and so I get here and I have a spot for a cappuccino machine, but it didn't work! So, I didn't have any cappuccino."

Stewart, the billionaire lifestyle expert whose life has been consumed by scandal in recent years, was released at 12:30 a.m. ET Friday from a federal prison in Alderson, W. Va. She left the prison in a dark sport/utility vehicle and headed straight for a local airport, where a chartered plane took her to New York.

A little more than two hours after her release, Stewart arrived at her home in Bedford, about 45 miles north of New York City. She'd spent the last five months at the Alderson minimum-security prison for women known as "Camp Cupcake."

Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of Stewart's conviction on charges that she lied to government investigators about her sale of ImClone stock in late 2001. She was sentenced last summer to five months in prison and five months of home arrest, followed by two years of probation.

She will now serve the home detention portion of her sentence at her 153-acre Bedford estate, which she bought in 2000 for $16 million and has since been renovating.

Looking slimmed-down and wearing a knit poncho, high-heeled boots and jeans, a glowing Stewart exited an SUV at the Greenbrier Valley Airport located near the Alderson prison. Waving and smiling, she walked briskly to a private jet idling on the tarmac. A small crowd cheered "Go Martha!"

Stewart's official return to the public eye is big news, and she appeared to relish the moment -- in stark contrast to last October when she slipped by television crews and checked in to Alderson unnoticed.

This time, her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, provided a flatbed truck so media images of her boarding her plane could be broadcast around the world.

Stewart did not speak to reporters gathered at the Greenbrier airport. Upon arriving at a Westchester County airport near Bedford, she rode another dark SUV home.

She made no public statements in Greenbrier or at the Westchester airport. But in a statement posted on www.marthastewart.com, she called her incarceration both "life altering and life affirming." She said she was "thrilled to be returning to my more familiar life."

"There is," she wrote, "no place like home."

The comeback kid?

Prison apparently has done wonders for Stewart. News reports have said she's lost weight and been a model prisoner. In the beginning she reached out to the public with letters posted on her Web site discussing her daily life behind bars, the bad prison food and federal sentencing guidelines, which she thinks treat first-time offenders unfairly.

In her statement early Friday, Stewart said she will "never forget" the women she met in prison -- "all that they have done to help me over these five months, their children, and the stories they have told me."

Stewart, 63, could have stayed out of prison, possibly for good, if she had waited until a court ruled on her still-pending appeal. But she said last fall that she wanted to put the nearly three-year-old ordeal behind her, both for her sake and for that of her company, which has been bleeding money because of her legal woes.

Marketing experts say Stewart's decision to serve her time early was smart because it signaled the beginning of the end of the whole debacle. Her image had been badly tarnished by the investigation and the criminal case that followed.

"In May 2002, if you asked me anything about Martha Stewart, all of my responses would have been positive," said marketing expert Robert Passikoff, referring to the early stages of the Stewart scandal.

But her open defiance after her 2003 indictment, as well as damaging testimony at trial, hurt her image considerably, Passikoff said. "It wasn't just that she was found guilty. She was also found to be mean-spirited."

By going to prison early, Stewart turned herself from "villain to victim," he said.

Hence, marketing experts said, the warm homecoming she's getting -- not just from the media, which has splashed Stewart all over newspapers and magazines all week, but also from her company, which not long ago seemed to be distancing herself from Martha.

Investors, too, are cheering. Stock in Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (Research) has more than quadrupled from the day she was sentenced last July.

The shares are near their all-time high, a big boost for Stewart. Through her daughter Alexis, Stewart controls about 60 percent of the company's stock -- an equity stake valued at more than $1 billion.

The stock sank 8 percent Friday as investors who had bet on big gains for the company took profits.

Leaving Camp Cupcake doesn't mean Stewart's rehabilitation is over. For starters, she'll be confined to her Bedford estate until August, wearing an electronic ankle bracelet. Stewart is allowed to leave her home for up to 48 hours a week for work, but otherwise can't leave her house even to garden.

She's also required to check in regularly with her probation officer and she can't interact with other convicted felons.

Once her house arrest ends, Stewart will be on probation for another two years.

As for her company, there's much work to be done turning it around. Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia just posted its second straight annual loss after losing advertisers, a television show, and investing in products minus Stewart's name, like "Everyday Food" magazine.

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia has already announced plans to have Stewart write a column for the company's flagship Martha Stewart Living magazine. Also filling up her schedule: She's scheduled to star in two television shows next fall and there is talk of plans to launch a clothing line.

Stewart also faces a Securities and Exchange Commission insider trading case that seeks to bar her from serving as an officer or director of any public company, including her own. Rumors of a settlement that would allow Stewart to return to the helm of Martha Stewart Living were rampant last week.

Last but not least, there's the appeal of her conviction on four felony counts of lying and obstructing justice. Oral arguments are set for March 17, according to a source close to Stewart.

For more on Martha's life after prison, click here.

For full coverage, click here.  Top of page

graphic


YOUR E-MAIL ALERTS
Martha Stewart
Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Incorporated
Marketing
Crime, Law and Justice
Manage alerts | What is this?