NEW YORK – Martha Stewart's home decorating and cooking show will be suspended for the coming season because she is awaiting sentencing after being convicted in a questionable stock sale, her company said Tuesday.
The Emmy-award (search) winning show was a linchpin of Stewart's lifestyle empire, built on how-to advice and products bearing her name. Viewers were taught everything from how to tile a bathroom to pasting pine cones on picture frames and baking with such personalities as Sesame Street's Cookie Monster.
But her namesake company Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO) has slowly distanced itself from its founder since her March conviction for lying to investigators about a personal stock sale. And Stewart has resigned as an officer and member of the company's board.
Stewart is scheduled to be sentenced on June 17 and faces possible prison time.
"I am deeply sorry that it has become necessary for the show to go on hiatus until my personal legal situation is resolved," Stewart said in a statement issued by MSO. "I hope to resume our close collaboration just as soon as I am able to do so."
MSO said Martha Stewart Living Television would be placed on hiatus after it wraps up its 11th season in September 2004. The show was distributed by King World Productions (search) to 52 percent of local U.S. television markets.
The company said it expects to take a second-quarter charge of up to $2 million as it restructures its television business.
MSO has seen advertising revenue fall since allegations against Stewart surfaced more than a year ago and earlier this month said it could face additional losses and lawsuits as a result of her conviction.
Brand experts said the decision to suspend the television show was a further sign that the company must distance itself from its creator.
"The closer that Stewart the person was associated with the actual products and services, the more damage all of the brand degradation brought them" as a company, said Robert Passikoff, president of the Brand Keys consultancy.
The company said it would continue production of its "Petkeeping" show with Marc Morrone and step up development of special programs and new shows, such as "Everyday Food," but had not given up on bringing back its signature show.
MSO chief executive Sharon Patrick said stations and distributors had expressed interest in restoring the Martha Stewart Living television show to future lineups "when available".
But Brand Keys' Passikoff said: "The thing she was closest to was the television show," and he doubted the program would return with Stewart after the company repairs the damage done to its brand.
The Martha Stewart Living television program had already been dropped from Viacom's CBS television stations, reducing license fees and advertising revenues. MSO also plans to downplay Stewart's name on its flagship magazine.
MSO shares fell 16 cents to $9.13 on the New York Stock Exchange (search) on Tuesday.