Martha Resigns from Her Own Company

03/15/2004 AT 06:08 PM EST

Disgraced domestic diva Martha Stewart announced Monday that she is stepping down from the namesake company she founded, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc.

"I am taking this action today because it is in the best interests of MSO and because I think it's the right thing to do," Stewart, 62, said in a statement.

Jeffrey Ubben, chairman of the board of Martha Stewart Living, said in a statement that the board "respects Martha's decision to resign her officer and director positions. In accepting her resignation, we have decided to create a new, continuing role as founding editorial director -- a role that reflects our desire for Martha to continue to make an important contribution to our business."

This new role, apparently, replaces her current title as "creative director." Stewart had resigned as chairman of the board for MSO last June, in light of the criminal charges against her.

Because the Securities Exchange Commission would likely have demanded that Stewart step out of her own company's executive corridors, her resignation is being viewed as a compromise -- given she will not only continue as a creative force in the company, but will also retain her $1.2 million annual salary and such perks as use of the corporate jet, say reports.

Stewart was convicted March 5 on four counts of lying to federal investigators about her sale of ImClone stock in December 2001. She is scheduled to be sentenced on June 17. Legal experts believe Stewart will be ordered to serve between 10 and 16 months behind bars in a minimum-security prison.

Stewart is not only the founder and guiding force of her company, but her face is emblazoned on many of its offshoots (magazines and TV shows) and she is its largest shareholder. She reportedly owns 61 percent of the business, so it is to her financial advantage that she has best interests of the company at hand, say analysts.

Already there has been speculation in the press about who might replace Stewart as America's doyen of domesticity. On Monday, The New York Times profiled a new possible ascendant to the throne, Kelly Hoppen, a Brit whose tastes run to even more refined extremes than Stewart's.

Unlike Martha, Kelly's wares are not on sale at Kmart but at Manhattan's arguably most expensive store, Bergdorf Goodman.

For the downmarket consumers in need of guidance, however, NBC's "Today" show has just launched a contest to find a new domestic diva. Any member of the public may apply.

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