NEW YORK – Martha Stewart (search) Tuesday received warm cheers — and some glances at her ankle — from several hundred investors who attended her company's annual meeting in hopes of hearing how it would reverse a string of financial losses.
Stewart, attending her first annual meeting since her release from prison, assured the crowd of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. (MSO) shareholders that the "hard times are pretty much over" and thanked them for their "steadfastness" and "goodwill" over the past year.
Her court-ordered electronic ankle bracelet was concealed Tuesday under a beige pants suit.
Indeed, shareholders have seen the company's business undercut by Stewart's indictment and criminal conviction on charges of lying to federal investigators about a stock trade. It posted a first-quarter loss last month and forecast more losses in the second quarter.
Stewart, who built the media and merchandising empire out of tips for gracious living, was released from prison in March after serving five months. She is under house arrest through August, but is allowed out for up to 48 hours a week to go to her office. The bracelet monitors her whereabouts.
Stewart and other top company executives Tuesday said the company is well-positioned for the long term, pointing to plans for two new television shows, a satellite radio channel and the release of 16 lifestyle and cooking DVDs.
Stewart said the past weeks "prove to me that 48 hours is much too short a work week," saying she was busy filming episodes for a new reality TV show with Mark Burnett (search), the creative force behind "Survivor" and Donald Trump's "The Apprentice."
She also unveiled the set design for another TV show, called "Martha," a daily program where she will showcase her ideas for entertaining, gardening and decorating. The 10,000-square-foot studio in Manhattan will include a greenhouse, kitchen and "craft room," she told shareholders, several of whom gasped at the design.
Later, during a question and answer session, two investors asked how they could get tickets to the show, another asked for better directions to next year's annual meeting, and yet another told the company founder she looked "marvelous."
"I'm very pleased with what I heard," one shareholder from New York said after the meeting, admitting she had been very depressed at last year's event when Stewart was still facing her legal troubles.
"She's a quality person and, as she said, quality products can weather all storms."
Another shareholder, who said she lived near one of Stewart's homes in Westport, Conn., said she sold some of her shares during Stewart's tangles with the law.
"Actually, today I was looking to see what leg had the bracelet," she said.