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MSLO Appoints Daniel Dienst CEO

By | Monday October 28, 2013 @ 9:14am PDT

Five years ago stock of Martha Stewart Living Ominmedia traded at around $36 a share and founder Martha Stewart‘s TV shows were all over first-run and syndication. Today shares are trading at $2.40 after the company’s board of directors announced that Daniel Dienst has been named CEO to spearhead the strategy of “renewed growth” at the media company, which has its hands in magazines, books, TV and radio. Former CEO Lisa Gersh said in December she was stepping down after having been in the job only a few months. Dienst is a turnaround guy but not in the media field: He most recently was CEO of Sims Metal Management. He had been on the MSLO board chaired by Stewart and will remain there. Here’s the release:

NEW YORK, Oct. 28, 2013 — Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. (“MSLO”) (NYSE: MSO) and its Board of Directors today announced that Daniel W. Dienst has been named Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Dienst is a highly accomplished CEO who has successfully repositioned and grown publicly-held companies. Mr. Dienst was recently appointed to the MSLO Board of Directors and will continue to serve in that role.

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Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Stock Falls After CEO Lisa Gersh Says She’ll Resign

UPDATED: Shares fell as much as 9.7% in early trading after Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia said that Lisa Gersh — who just became CEO of the domestic diva’s media company in July – “plans to step down from that role” as directors begin to search for a successor. The former Oxygen Media exec had been president and chief operating officer at Stewart’s company since 2011 and was expected to beef up its TV programming after Hallmark Channel decided early this year not to renew The Martha Stewart Show. As you might expect, execs say that all’s well. “With the restructuring of the media businesses complete and a strong team leading key financial and corporate functions, the company is on solid footing and positioned for growth,” Gersh says. “There is an exciting future ahead for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and I am committed to working with the board to ensure a smooth transition.” Martha Stewart, who’s founder and non-executive chairman, says that the “media businesses are now repositioned for the future and we are excited about the potential of our digital, mobile, video and print platforms.” But investors aren’t so sure. The company’s shares lost 45% of their value over the last 12 months before this morning’s drop. The publishing business slowed; Stewart’s company said this month that it will close Whole Living, a magazine dedicated to healthy eating. JCPenney, which bought a major stake in the company last year, plans to put Martha Stewart shops in some of its stores in 2013 — but Macy’s says it has an exclusive deal for Stewart’s merchandise and sued for breach of contract.

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MSLO Cuts Jobs, Reduces Publications

By | Thursday November 1, 2012 @ 5:10pm PDT

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia is reducing the publication of two of its magazines and laying off about 70 workers as it deals with declining advertising and circulation. The news comes ahead of the media company’s Friday morning quarterly earnings call, which had been rescheduled because of Hurricane Sandy. The company will cut back the publishing schedule of its Everyday Food magazine to 5 times a year, down from 10, and deliver the magazine as a supplement to subscribers of Martha Stewart Living, according to the New York Times. It will no longer be sold as a stand-alone publication. Whole Living magazine also is coming to an end. Company executives have been in discussions to sell the publication, which suffered a 24% decline in advertising pages in the past year. They plan to stop printing it by year’s end and fold the content into Martha Stewart Living if a sale is not concluded, the Times reports. The company has been focusing on its digital initiatives of late, launching a Martha Stewart Channel on Hulu and pacting with FremantleMedia to develop properties featuring new talent under the Martha Stewart label. MSLO has no such daily TV programs currently in production after Hallmark Channel last spring cancelled The Martha Stewart Show and opted not to order new episodes of the company-produced Emeril’s Table, Mad Hungry, Martha Bakes and Petkeeping. The company’s only new show is the weekly Martha Stewart’s Read More »

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FremantleMedia Enterprises Partners With Martha Stewart For Lifestyle Programming

By | Thursday October 25, 2012 @ 7:11am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

FremantleMedia Enterprises and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia have entered a first-look agreement to develop television and digital video programming featuring the next generation of lifestyle talent across food, fashion, home, gardening and more, which will be produced under the Martha Stewart banner. MSLO has no such daily programs currently in production after Hallmark Channel last spring cancelled The Martha Stewart Show and opted not to order new episodes of the company-produced Emeril’s Table, Mad Hungry, Martha Bakes and Petkeeping. The company’s only new show is the weekly Martha Stewart’s Cooking School on PBS.

FME and MSLO will name a development executive to head their development. As part of the new programming agreement, FME and MSLO have also renewed their long-standing TV programming distribution deal outside of the U.S., with FME continuing to be the exclusive international distributor of MSLO current and library content, including The Martha Stewart Show and Martha Stewart’s Cooking School.

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Martha Stewart New MSLO Board Chairman

By | Wednesday May 23, 2012 @ 10:07am PDT

Martha Stewart MSLONEW YORK, May 23, 2012 — Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. (NYSE: MSO) today announced that Martha Stewart, Founder of MSLO, has been elected Non-Executive Chairman of the Board. Ms. Stewart rejoined the Board in September and now succeeds Charles Koppelman as Non-Executive Chairman.

Martha Stewart Returns To MSLO Board
Charles Koppelman Lands A Sweet Exit Package From MSLO

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Media Stocks Caught In Downdraft As Fears Of European Default Grow

The trading day ended with a thud. The benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 wound up -2.1% as word spread that Germany might balk at a proposal to help bail out debt-laden members of the European Union including Greece and Portugal. That affected media stocks; the Dow Jones U.S. Media Index fell 3%. Disney was the hardest hit among the Big Guns, with shares off 3.2%. It was followed by News Corp (-3.1%), CBS (-3%), Comcast (-2.9%), Time Warner (-2.7%), Viacom (-2.3%), and Sony (-2.1%). Newspaper companies were big losers led by McClatchy (-10%), New York Times (-7.3%), E.W. Scripps (-6.5%), and Gannett (-6.3%). But others weren’t far behind: Cablevision (-6.1%) hit a 52-week low. The losers list also included Crown Media (-6.6%), AOL (-5.9%), DirecTV (-4.7%), Live Nation (-4.4%), Barnes & Noble (-4.3%), TiVo (-4.2%), Sirius XM (-4.2%) and Dish Network (-4.2%). Today’s few gainers were led by Coinstar, up 7.8% on a report that its Redbox unit will team up with Verizon to offer an online video service. Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia was up 1.7% the day after J.C. Penney said it bought 16.6% of the company. And Madison Square Garden was up 1.7%, hitting a 52-week high, after Morgan Stanley’s Benjamin Swinburne changed his recommendation to “overweight” from “underweight” following the resolution of the NBA lockout.

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MSLO Sees 3Q Gain As Broadcast Grows

By | Tuesday November 1, 2011 @ 10:40am PDT

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia reported today reported third-quarter revenue of $52.2 million, up from $49.7 million a year ago, as publishing declines offset higher merchandising revenue. A decline in print ad pages led to the publishing dip, though digital advertising grew by 17%. In the broadcast unit, revenue was $6.6 million, up 14% year-over-year thanks to new programming like Emeril’s Table, which premiered in September on Hallmark Channel, and a MSLO programming block that includes The Martha Stewart Show, Martha Bakes and Mad Hungry With Lucinda Scala Quinn.

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Martha Stewart Returns To MSLO Board

By | Monday September 26, 2011 @ 9:59am PDT

Directors at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia said today that they have elected Martha Stewart to the board. She’s able to join now due to the expiration of a deal that she struck with the SEC in 2006 to settle a case involving securities fraud and obstruction of justice charges. Stewart had agreed not to manage or sit on the board of a publicly traded company for five years.  The move had been expected since May, when the company hired Oxygen Media co-founder Lisa Gersh as president and chief operating officer and retained Blackstone Advisory Partners to explore opportunities for the company that some have speculated could include a sale. MSLO has struggled in its TV business and is looking to boost its digital and publishing initiatives.

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Media Stocks Slammed Amid Concerns Of A Double-Dip Recession

Media stocks suffered along with just about everyone else today after the Federal Reserve stirred recession fears by reporting “significant downside risks to the economic outlook” — and World Bank President Robert Zoellick warned that global economies are in a “danger zone.” The Dow Jones U.S. Media Index fell 3.9%, slightly more than the 3.5% drop in the DJ Industrial Average. Companies most exposed to advertising were hard hit. CBS led the pack among the industry’s Big Guns with shares down 7.2%. It was followed by Viacom (-6.6%), Disney (-5.5%), Comcast (-3.8%), Time Warner (-3.6%), News Corp (-3.3%), and Sony (-2.7%). Others falling at least 7% include Nielsen and Sirius XM. Those dropping at least 6% include Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, The New York Times, Coinstar, IMAX, and Cumulus Media. Even in the battered market, a few media companies were up on the day including Live Nation (+2.1%), Barnes & Noble (+3.1%), Scholastic (+6.8%) and Westwood One (+20.8%).

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Martha Stewart’s Company Taps Head Of TV, New EP For Stewart’s Hallmark Show

By | Tuesday September 6, 2011 @ 7:40am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia is looking to shore up its struggling TV operations with the hire of Geoffrey Darby as General Manager of the company’s TV division. Darby, 25-year TV veteran who recently served as EVP of programming for The Weather Channel and president of production for Oxygen Media, will oversee production and television operations, reporting to recently appointed MSLO president and COO Lisa Gersh. Additionally, Michael Morrison, who will report to Darby, has been named executive producer of The Martha Stewart Show, which launches its seventh season on Hallmark Channel on Sept. 26. Morrison previously served as a programming consultant and executive producer at A&E. When MSLO tapped Gersh in May as COO to become CEO within 12-20 months, the company also announced that it has retained advisory firm Blackstone Advisory Partners, sparking speculation that it is considering a sale.

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UPDATE: Media Stocks Down, But With Exceptions, As Overseas Debt Fears Grow

UPDATE 4:10 PM: The markets couldn’t sustain an early afternoon rally amid concerns that France might lose its AAA debt rating and that Spain or Italy might default on payments. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 4.6% while the S&P 500 dropped 4.4% and NASDAQ was down 4.1%. But media companies were mixed, with some showing big improvements from mid-day. Disney remained the hardest hit of the Big Guns with shares falling 9.1%. It was followed by Sony (-5.7%), CBS (-5.4%), News Corp (-4.7%), Time Warner (-4.6%), Comcast (-4.5%), and Viacom (-0.3%). Among other media companies, Crown Media, Westwood One, and E.W. Scripps fell at least 10%. Entercom, The New York Times, and Gannett were off at least 9%. And Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, AOL, and LIN TV were down at least 8%.  Some companies were up including Cinedigm (+8.7%), National CineMedia (+4.3%), New Frontier Media (+2.7%), DreamWorks Animation (+2%), Lionsgate (+1.8%), Pandora Media (+0.6%), and Coinstar (+0.1%).

PREVIOUS, 9:00 AM: Here we go again. Stock markets at mid-day have given up just about all of yesterday’s gains following the Fed’s pledge to keep interest rates low — and media companies are being hammered. The Dow Jones U.S. media index is -4.7% while the Dow Jones Industrial Average is -4.1%. Similarly the S&P media index is off 5.5% while the S&P 500 is -3.8% and NASDAQ’s media shares are -4.8 vs. the overall exchange which is -3.3%. Here’s how industry giants are faring at mid-day: Disney (-10.7%), CBS … Read More »

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Charles Koppelman Lands A Sweet Exit Package From Martha Stewart’s Struggling Company

Will Martha Stewart put her company’s extravagant good-bye gift to Executive Chairman Charles Koppelman in a tasteful gift box with a bow? The former EMI Music chief — who was a fixture on NBC’s The Apprentice: Martha Stewart in 2005 — will leave by year’s end, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia disclosed in an SEC filing today. His departure was moved up a year to open running room for MSLO’s new COO Lisa Gersh, who co-founded and ran Oxygen Media until NBCUniversal bought it in 2007. She’s been reporting to Koppelman but will report directly to the board when he leaves. But he shouldn’t complain: His exit package includes a $1.47M severance payment and up to $35,000 for the attorneys who worked on his new arrangement. The filing says he’ll remain on the MSLO board as “Non-Executive Chairman, Vice Chairman or Special Committee Chairman.” That will entitle him to an initial $50,000 in stock rights as well as rights to 100,000 shares. (Stewart, who was convicted of obstruction of justice in connection with an insider trading investigation in 2004, plans to rejoin the board before October.) Don’t let Koppelman’s sweet deal fool you into thinking that the publishing, TV, and merchandise firm’s doing well: MSLO shares lost about 20% of their value over the last 12 months. Read More »

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Martha Stewart’s Company Adds Future CEO, Retains Advisory Firm; Is Sale Next?

By | Wednesday May 25, 2011 @ 11:15am PDT

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia announced today that it has hired Oxygen Media co-founder Lisa Gersh as president and chief operating officer, part of a succession plan in which Gersh is expected to become CEO within 12-20 months. The company also said Martha Stewart will rejoin the board of directors in the third quarter of this year, returning to the post after a five-year SEC ban related to her insider-trading conviction. But the most interesting news might have come farther down the press release, where MSLO said it has retained advisory firm Blackstone Advisory Partners “to review and respond to various parties that have expressed interest in potentially partnering with or investing in the Company, as well as exploring other opportunities.” Although “there is no assurance that the exploration of strategic partnerships and other opportunities will result in a partnership or transaction,” these kind of moves usually signal that a company is exploring all options, including a sale, which has started to get Wall Street types buzzing. Said Stewart: “As the founder and largest stockholder, I fully support this initiative to take our business and iconic brand to the next level.” MLSO is moving to grow in the international and digital spaces after recent declines in its TV and publishing businesses.

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EXCLUSIVE DEADLINE LIST: Media Moguls With Out-Of-Whack Pay Compensation

EXCLUSIVE: This is exactly the kind of information that shareholders of Big Media need to know but rarely see. It’s considered a red flag when any public company pays one of its bigwigs – usually the CEO – three times more than the average for the four other top executives which the SEC requires them to list. So I’ve taken proxy statements and done the computations and discovered that at least 16 of 35 companies failed that test. Often miserably. Nearly half of the media company compensation packages disclosed so far for 2010 show a startling degree of hero-worship as boards of directors pay their top dogs sums that far exceed what the pay was for other top execs in the company.

Stock grants accounted for big chunks of the compensation for those who top this list, including Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman, DirecTV CEO Michael White, Nielsen CEO David Calhoun, and CBS chief Les Moonves. Radio station owner Entercom was off the charts: CEO David Field’s $9.1 million compensation was modest by media company standards but still 25.4 times bigger than average for the company’s other four executives. It includes $7.9 million from stock grants that only pay off if Entercom shares rise to hit certain target prices.

Still, corporate governance experts who focus on what’s often called “CEO centrality” say that an out-of-whack pay package is bad news for shareholders. It indicates that the board of directors may be in the pocket of a CEO – or believes he or she has near super-human power to help the company succeed.  In either case, the board is likely to give the CEO all the credit when things go well, and blame others when they go badly. Research shows that usually hurts the stock price over time.

I’ll track this and other measures of lop-sided pay as other media companies release information for 2010. But there are a few things to keep in mind: The SEC reporting rules only cover the top-paid executives of publicly traded U.S. companies. That means we probably won’t know how much privately held Hearst pays CEO Frank Bennack, or how much Japan’s Sony pays CEO Howard Stringer. It also means that we’ll miss a lot of highly paid people who work at subsidiaries of a big company; Universal Studios’ Ron Meyer may be a big deal in Hollywood, but he was a relatively small fish last year at parent company General Electric. 

To make comparisons in our list here as fair as possible, we looked at the compensation for the five most highly paid employees for 2010. Sometimes companies report the pay for more than five people — for example, when a top executive is replaced during the year a corporation will include the incoming and outgoing person’s compensation. And the pay data given the SEC can spike in a year when an executive cashes in stock or collects deferred compensation. So here’s how the companies stack up, with the top paid executive’s 2010 reported compensation and comparison to the average (median) pay for the four other highest-paid honchos:

1. Entercom: David Field. The son of company founder Joseph Field became CEO in 2002, about 15 years after leaving his job as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs. Field made $9.1 million last year – the total of his $791,723 salary, $444,308 bonus, $7.9 million in stock, and $28,000 in other perks including medical insurance premiums. That’s a 348% raise in a year when company shares appreciated 53.2%. Though considered a strong operating executive, his salary stands out because it’s 25.4 times higher than the $358,692 average for the four other top executives listed in Entercom’s proxy statement. Field’s salary and the $3.9 million paid to CFO Stephen Fisher accounted for 93% of the $14 million that Entercom paid to its top five executives. Read More »

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