Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia is nearing a deal to sell itself to Sequential Brands Group, a retail licensing company, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal Thursday.
A sale, which could be announced in coming days, would mark the end of an independent multi-media empire that spans television, publishing and retail, and whose luster and profits have faded in recent years.
The company has been losing money, seeing revenue trail and recently handed control of its magazine business to Meredith. For the first quarter of 2015, it lost $2.6 million. Sales plunged by 48 percent to $17.1 million with declines in all segments of the business.
New York-based Sequential owns, manages and licenses a diverse portfolio of brands across industries, including Jessica Simpson, Ellen Tracy, Linens N Things, Revo and The Franklin Mint. According to the company’s website, it is “focused solely on promoting, protecting and activating our portfolio of consumer brands through partnerships with best-in-class licenses.”
Representatives for Martha Stewart Living and Sequential weren’t immediately available to comment about an acquisition.
Shares of Martha Stewart Living surged more than 26 percent on the news after being halted briefly on the New York Stock Exchange. The jump brings the company’s market capitalization to over $370 million.
Shares of Sequential also popped higher, up 12.54 percent. Its market cap hit $637 million.
Stewart started as a stockbroker before launching a small catering business in the late 1970s. She crested to lifestyle guru fame over the next decade to become a titan of entertaining and homemaking with top-selling tomes including Martha Stewart’s Quick Cook Menus, Martha Stewart’s Wedding Planner and Martha Stewart’s Christmas. The backbone of the company was her monthly magazine, Martha Stewart Living, eponymous cable TV show and deals with major retail chains.
Martha Stewart Living’s products are currently sold at The Home Depot, Macy’s and PetSmart. The company signed a new deal in April to make stationery and storage products for Staples.
Stewart took her company public in 1999 but was forced to resign in 2002 after being charged with insider trading in shares of biotech company ImClone Systems. She was found guilty and sentenced to five months in prison, splitting her time between a minimum security prison in Alderson, West Virginia, and her home in Connecticut. She was barred from taking a hands-on role at the company for years but returned as chairwoman in 2012.