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Martha Stewart Living Pushing Profit, Names Gersh as CEO

Martha Stewart Living OmniMedia Inc. named Lisa Gersh as Chief Executive Officer, succeeding Charles Koppelman, who was Principal Executive Officer and the most senior executive at the company until September last year.

Martha Stewart, founder and non-executive chairman, extended her employment agreement until June 30, 2017 and will also take on the new title of chief creative officer, the New York-based company said in a statement. Gersh was previously president and chief operating officer.

“I look forward to continuing our drive towards sustainable profitability,” Gersh said in the statement. “We are focused on elevating the iconic Martha Stewart brand to an even higher level and putting our content and products in reach of even more consumers.”

Martha Stewart Living is increasingly reliant on branded products as its publishing and television arms struggle in a tough advertising market. The company may post a net loss of $4.9 million in the second quarter, according to analysts’ average estimates based on data compiled by Bloomberg.

“They needed a talented management team to understand the business and how to enhance the value,” said Michael Kupinski, an analyst at Noble Financial Capital Markets. “The company did not make hard choices to enhance the value of its publishing division specifically,” Kupinski said by telephone.

Succession Plan

Gersh joined Martha Stewart Living in June last year as president and COO, responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations and overseeing the company’s businesses. Gersh reported to Koppelman and her appointment created a succession plan which anticipated Gersh becoming CEO within 12 to 20 months, the company said at the time.

Before joining Martha Stewart Living, Gersh co-founded Oxygen Media LLC and was president and COO from 1998 until 2007 when it was acquired by NBC Universal. She is also a director on the board of Hasbro Inc.

Koppelman, in addition to being principal executive officer, was also chairman for five years until May this year.

Martha Stewart Living “is seeking to strategically reinvent its media businesses for the digital era” and is debuting a new TV show, ‘Martha Stewart’s Cooking School,’ in October, the company also said today.

Profit Margins

Gersh will need to improve profit margins at the company’s publishing division and increase the international distribution of its merchandise, Noble’s Kupinski said.

Stewart’s contract was extended to June 30, 2017 from its previous expiration date of June 30 this year, the company said in a filing today. No additional compensation for Stewart is payable for new programming after June 30, unless it requires Stewart to provide services exceeding the commitment previously required from her for ‘The Martha Stewart Show,’ the company said.

The shares have dropped 19 percent this year. The stock rose 2 percent to $3.57 at the close today in New York.

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