Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia chief exits

Millard, Marino promoted to co-CEO

The teaming of Martha Stewart and Susan Lyne is over.

Lyne has stepped down from her post as president and CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia after four years.

The day-to-day operations of the company will be handled by president of media Wenda Harris Millard and president of merchandising Robin Marino. Each has been promoted to co-CEO; Lyne will stay with MSLO in an advisory role and as a director to help with the transition.

Lyne's exit has prompted speculation that Discovery Communications might be eyeing Lyne to run OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, which will launch in the second half of 2009.

CW president of entertainment Dawn Ostroff and MTV Networks chairman and CEO Judy McGrath are among the top female execs whose names also have been bandied about for that post.

"We don't have an announcement yet on the OWN CEO, and we don't speculate on candidates," a Discovery spokesperson said.

Lyne's relationship with Winfrey extends to her days as an executive at ABC, where she forged a partnership with Winfrey's Harpo Prods. for longform programming. Lyne ran ABC's movies and miniseries department for four years until she was named entertainment president in 2002, a position she held for two years.

Another scenario that had been circulated in the past year has Lyne replacing Ann Moore as head of Time Inc. in the event the division is spun off from Time Warner.

MSLO and Lyne wouldn't elaborate on reasons for their split. "Although there is never a perfect time to depart, the company is on sound footing and we expect the transition to be very smooth," Lyne said.

Speculation about Lyne's exit from MSLO began swirling at the beginning of the year when her contract expired Dec. 31 and was not replaced by a new long-term deal.

On Wednesday, Lyne said she has rebuilt MSLO and "returned it to profitability," which was the "principal goal" the board had set out for her four years ago. During her time at MSLO, the company launched daytime talker "Martha" with NBC Universal and an "Apprentice" spinoff starring Stewart on NBC.

It recently acquired the content assets of celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse in a $50 million-plus deal intended to further diversify the company's business beyond its core Martha brand. Additionally, Lyne oversaw the Martha Stewart Living magazine.

Since Lyne joined MSLO in 2004, when Stewart was sentenced to a five-month prison sentence for obstruction of justice, shares of the company have dropped 57%.

Before segueing to TV, Lyne spent 15 years in magazine publishing, creating and launching News Corp.'s Premiere Magazine.

As president of media, Millard oversaw MSLO's online, publishing and broadcasting businesses.

Before joining the company in 2007, she had served as chief sales officer at Yahoo, chief Internet officer at Ziff Davis Media and president of Ziff Davis Internet as well as executive vp and a founder of DoubleClick.

Before coming to MSLO in 2005, Marino was president and COO of Kate Spade Inc. She has more than 30 years experience in retail with positions at Macy's, Polo Ralph Lauren and Burberry.

Marino and Millard will report to Charles Koppleman, chairman of MSLO's board.

Alex Woodson reported from New York; Kimberly Nordyke reported from Los Angeles.
comments powered by Disqus