Lyne Fields Calls From Suitors After Leaving Profitable MSLO

What Everyone Is Talking About

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NEW YORK ( -- "It's been a very nice 24 hours," Susan Lyne said last week, one day after Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia revealed that she was stepping down as president and CEO. It was for her, at least. Usually when executives say they are leaving because their work is done, their work has been taken away from them. But when Ms. Lyne said her mission was accomplished, she had the evidence to prove it. She and her team have achieved the principal goal of returning the company to profitability after it foundered on an earlier advertising downturn and the incarceration of its namesake founder.
Susan Lyne accomplished her principal goal at MSLO.
Susan Lyne accomplished her principal goal at MSLO.

She received inquiries from other potential employers along the way but said she didn't entertain them. "I had no conversations," she said. "I was very clear that while I was doing this job I would not be out looking for the next one."

Now she has a lunch scheduled with Ann Moore, chairman-CEO of Time Inc., which rumors have placed in pursuit of Ms. Lyne before. Ms. Moore has said she is leaving after her contract ends in 2010.

Asked whether the lunch was about a job, and then to disclose every other lunch she has planned in the next month, Ms. Lyne laughed. "I've had lots of nice calls from people," she said.

For the company she is leaving, however, the first 24 hours may not have been the sweetest. Analysts questioned the wisdom of a succession plan promoting Wenda Harris Millard, the former Yahoo sales chief, and Robin Marino, the onetime Kate Spade president and chief operating officer, to take over as co-CEOs. "I'm scratching my head a little on the co-CEO," said David Bank, managing director at RBC Capital Markets, on the morning the news broke. Later in the day JPMorgan cut its rating on the company to "neutral," citing Ms. Lyne's departure and the tough ad market.

Everyone seemed to agree that Ms. Millard, Ms. Marino and the rest of the executive suite would handle the tests ahead well. "There are lots of options for the company," Ms. Lyne said. "Where we allocate resources going forward really should be decided by people who are going to be here to execute on that. It really seemed like the right moment to say, OK, next generation of leadership."
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