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Lyne Named Martha Stewart Living CEO

Nov 11, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Susan Lyne, the ABC executive ousted last spring amid flagging ratings at the network, late Thursday was named president and CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, the lifestyle company that has been buffeted by the legal troubles of its founder, Martha Stewart.

Ms. Lyne, who just four months ago was named to the MSO board, replaces Sharon Patrick, who is leaving the company after 10 years after having navigated the company through three turbulent years during which its publishing and television businesses took a hit following Ms. Stewart’s indictment and conviction for an illegal stock sale.

In joining the company as its top executive, Ms. Lyne will immediately face a raft of challenges stemming from Ms. Stewart’s legal troubles. The company has bled red ink for the past several quarters, lost advertisers and had to cease nearly all of its television operations. Though the company has taken some steps to rely less on Ms. Stewart’s name, a turnaround has been slow to materialize.

However, Wall Street is expecting things to improve in the coming months. Ms. Stewart in October began a five-month prison sentence and is expected to be released in March, at which time she can resume working at MSO while serving five months of house arrest.

Perhaps even more promising is a deal struck with reality-television guru Mark Burnett to produce syndicated and prime-time reality series featuring Ms. Stewart starting this fall.

For her part, Ms. Patrick cited personal and professional reasons for her departure, which the company described as being initiated by Ms. Patrick herself.

“I have cherished my various roles over the last 10 years in working with Martha to create and develop Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia into the dynamic company it has been and is today,” Ms. Patrick said. “I believe I am leaving the company well positioned to meet the challenges ahead.”

For Ms. Lyne, the new role comes as a number of television series on ABC strike a chord with viewers. Largely responsible for the ratings success seen at ABC this season-having shepherded the development of “Desperate Housewives,” “Lost” and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”-Ms. Lyne was pushed out of ABC in April, on the eve of ABC’s upfront presentation, after having spent more than four years at the network and two years before that at ABC parent Walt Disney Co.

Before that, Ms. Lyne spent 15 years in the magazine publishing business, launching Premiere magazine in 1987. Prior to that Ms. Lyne served as managing editor of New York weekly newspaper The Village Voice from 1978 to 1982.