NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO) is close to selling itself to Sequential Brands Group (SQBG) an acquisitive retail-licensing company, according to The Wall Street Journal. Such a move would mark the end of an independent publishing and housewares conglomerate that grew out of Stewart's knack for decorating, cooking and gardening-a company now worth a fraction of what it once was.
A deal would usher in the latest chapter in the remarkable career of Stewart, who used TV and magazines to elevate homemaking to an aspirational level. Her ascent was interrupted in 2004 when she was convicted of obstructing a government investigation into a stock sale. She served nearly five months in jail. She ultimately returned to a company that has been hit by many of the same forces others in the media industry are facing.
Sequential Brands, far from a household name itself, has nevertheless become a major consolidator of well-known brands in recent years. The company buys brands and, like Martha Stewart Living and others, licenses them to manufacturers and retailers. In April, the company, which had a market value of $569 million, agreed to buy a 50% stake in pop star Jessica Simpson's brand. Sequential also owns Justin Timberlake's William Rast brand, Heely's, Linens 'n Things, Ellen Tracy, the Franklin Mint and others.
Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, which was founded in 1997 and is based in New York, had a market value of $370 million as of Thursday afternoon. Even after a 26% jump in the shares when The Wall Street Journal reported on the possible deal, the company's value is still a far cry from the nearly $2 billion it soared to on the day of its initial public offering, at the height of the dot-com boom in 1999. Though she was forced to give up her roles at the company, Stewart maintained her stake and as of last year owned nearly 49% of the company's Class A common shares and nearly 90% of the voting control.