Playing nice at Martha Stewart

June 12, 2008

susan-lyne.jpgSusan Lyne is leaving Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, but the shakeup at the lifestyle brand probably isn’t over yet. 

Lyne steered the company through some rough waters as chief executive (let’s not forget she ran things as Martha Stewart trudged off to prison) and now she’ll be replaced by Wenda Harris Millard and Robin Marino. That’s right, Millard and Marino. Co-CEO’s. Two at the top. Power sharing.

How often does that work? ”They are fairly rare and they typically don’t work out to be that great,” said Noble Financial research director Michael Kupinski.

Wall Street’s reaction? Shares fell by about 6 percent yesterday.

Both Millard and Marino joined the company under Lyne’s watch, and have bigtime experience in advertising and retail merchandising. Marino was previously president and chief operating officer at luxury designer Kate Spade, while Millard served as a high-ranking ad executive at Yahoo.

On paper, it would seem a good combination for a media company with footholds in both advertising and retailing. Besides, Millard points out that she and Marino already coordinate closely. “We saw an opportunity for even more collaboration,” she said in an interview with Reuters.

Paul Bernard, who runs executive-coaching and management-consulting firm Paul Bernard & Associates, noted in the Wall Street Journal that the track record of power-sharing deals in the corporate world is “dismal.”

“Inevitably what will happen is someone will be pushed out,” he said.

As one media insider told us yesterday, these sharing things are often an attempt keep everyone happy and onboard — and just as often have the opposite effect.

Keep an eye on:

  • A fierce battle has broken out among top executives at Live Nation over the concert-promotion company’s ambitious strategy to reshape the struggling music industry by making wide-ranging but expensive deals with artists such as Madonna and Jay-Z (WSJ.com)
  • The Screen Actors Guild on Wednesday continued its campaign against a rival actors’ union’s tentative contract with Hollywood producers (Hollywood Reporter)
  • Apple will make less money off each new iPhone, but Wall Street expects only a minor impact on the company’s bottom line as the cheaper price spurs mass-market buying (Reuters)

(Photo of Susan Lyne from Reuters)

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Martha is big business. Her empire needs to be operated like a Fortune 500 company. Business is business.