Beating her own book into the stores by some distance, however, will be one by New York Observer and Bloomberg financial commentator Christopher Byron, whose Martha Inc. promises an investigative look at the lady and her company.
It's being written for John Wiley, where senior editor Pamela Van Giessen signed it from agent Joni Evans at William Morris, and it will be published, they say, as soon as next April. Byron, who has been a not-unsympathetic observer of Stewart and her Omnimedia company, said he originally had planned to do the book with her, but that she had backed out when she apparently became "uncomfortable" with some of the questions his researcher was asking. Byron added that she decided to do her own book only after it became clear that he would go ahead without her. Crown responded that Steward had always planned to do her own memoir. (Publishers Weekly, June 25, 2001)
"Martha Stewart is a success story you either love or hatebut until now you've only heard her side of it. In "Martha Inc.", author Christopher Byron chronicles the whole story..." (New York Post, April 8, 2002)
"Mr. Byron will not disappoint those who crave even more evidence of [Martha's] excess." (New York Times Business section, April 14, 2002).
"...it's clear [Byron] is a fan of Stewart's business acumen...[the book is] a riveting twist on an old story." (USA Today's, April 15, 2002)
"makes for a fascinating...read...a meaty account" (BusinessWeek, April 22, 2002)
Though gleefully heralded in the press as a hatchet job, this biography of Martha Stewart turns out to be surprisingly evenhanded. The author's mixture of distaste and respect for his subject is informed by his own contact with her: nodding acquaintances for years, they briefly were friends after Byron wrote an admiring article. But when his questions headed in uncomfortable directions Stewart's enthusiasm for the book turned to hostility. Byron, a business columnist for the Post, is most persuasive when he describes her professional maneuverings-particularly her genius for using any partnership to her advantage, from her marriage to her Kmart deal. Byron sifts the now familiar elements of Stewart's personal life-impoverished upbringing, bullying dad, cohorts of betrayed friends-and arrives at the plausible if predictable conclusion that character problems like ruthless egotism are at the root of her business success. Given that her net worth is $650 million, we should all have these problems. (The New Yorker, April 22 & 29, 2002)
"Studying the two faces of Martha makes for a good, if opinionated, read." (The Economist, April 20, 2002)
"...many intriguing questions [are] posed in Byron's hot new business book/biography, which is among the most talked-about and successful books of the spring." (Connecticut Post, April 21, 2002)
"...more than perfunctory kudos go to Christopher Byron for assembling so much information about his subject, and a few more pats on the back for presenting it in so readable a form." (Wall Street Journal, April 23, 2002) At a 1995 dinner for Princess Diana, an unfortunate soul mistook Martha Stewart for someone else. "If you don't know who I am, then you don't deserve to be at this table!" she responded.
Modern conversation owes much to the bizarre behavior and outrageous rhymes-with-witch-icisms of Martha Stewart. And the new Martha Inc. by Christopher Byron is full of both-plus plenty on Stewart's astounding business acumen. The New York Post business columnist cites countless classic Martha Moments, such as how she maneuvered Kmart into paying for her new home and its restoration. And how, on the eve of her $121 million IPO, she snubbed magazine editor Tina Brown, answering a "How are you?" with a curt "I'm rich." Sadly, the book's index makes no mention of Stewart's 15 pet chinchillas. Perhaps in Martha: Really and Truly, the autobiography she plans to write. —Holly J. Morris (U.S. News & World Report, April 22, 2002)
[MARTHA INC. is] "a can't-put-down read" (Detroit News, April 27, 2002)
"Byron connects the dots between Martha the private person and Martha the brand, ending up with a book that is as much in the celebrity gossip genre as it is a business biography.... More fascinating is what lies behind the curtains that Byron pulls back..." (The Strait Times (Singapore), April 28, 2002)
"...takes readers on a fascinating journey into the making of the domestic demigoddess.... Byron writes with a lively and informative hand. He zeroes in with facts..." (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 1, 2002)
"Byron has written a balanced book that highlights both [Martha's] strengths and her abundance of warts. That makes Byron's book credible..." (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 3, 2002)
There's enough dish to feed Martha Stewart lovers and loathers alike in this scrupulously reported bio. The author says he spoke to more than 100 people, but most of the revelations feel unsurprising.
Byron paints Stewart as a remote mother to her daughter and a cold wife who berated her husband until he walked out on her 25 years later. (She once called him "f stupid" in front of guests when he failed to stack firewood to her liking, a friend of the pair's said.) And (gasp!) power has made her no sweeter. Walking through the corridors of her corporate offices one day, she stopped to watch her dog poop on the carpet, telling an assistant, "I just wish I could get my employees to do that when I say."
The book goes on too long though, and Byron, a New York Post business columnist, wastes ink endlessly reworking his idea that Stewart is a sour apple who didn't fall too far from the tree: Her dad emerges as a nasty bully. Byron does nail Martha's undisputed genius for exploiting women's domestic fantasies, and the stories of how she wiped the floor with some of America's top male execs at Kmart and Time Warner go down like a delicious dessert. (People Magazine, May 13, 2002)
"...a dishy book...a few more pats on the back for presenting it in so readable a form." (Wall Street Journal (Europe), 24 April 2002)
"The most fascinating parts of "Martha Inc." focus on Martha's dealings with Kmart and Time Warner. These sections showcase Byron's understanding of the business world. His ability to analyze the needs and wants of major corporations and Martha's demands make good reading." (The Capital Times, May 17, 2002)
Who would not envy Martha Stewart? The 60-year-old lifestyle doyenne has sold more than 10 million books, publishes a monthly magazine with a circulation of more than 2 million, is the host of a six-day-a-week television show and, as a result of the initial public offering of her company in 1999, the aptly named Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, is a multimillion-dollar concern. Christopher M. Byron, a business reporter who is also Stewart's neighbor in Westport, Conn., as well as a former friend (they got to know each other after Byron published a column calling her forthcoming stock offering "the deal of all time"), attempts to present a picture of "the richest self-made businesswoman in America." "Martha Inc." is balanced, and Byron's financial analysis of the company is sophisticated. Nonetheless, his argument that Stewart's success is driven by anger at her cruel father and resentment of her working-class up-bringing seems simplistic. Occasionally Byron describes Stewart as "two different people" there is successful Martha, and the "Other Martha," who is bitter and vengeful off camera. One wishes Byron had constructed a more nuanced portrait of this woman who, like most moguls, is a great but flawed character. As Byron himself wrote in a column on Stewart, "The lady deserves better." (New York Times Book Review, Sunday June 9, 2002)
"...viciously entertaining biography..." (Barron's, 1 July 2002)
Here's a business book that's right at home on the beach. It's got juicy anecdotes: After one of her dogs defecates on the carpet in her corporate offices, Martha quips, "I just wish I could get my employees to do that when I say." And some pop psychology: In the "relationship script" she learned from her domineering father, Byron writes, "the authority figure maintains control by yelling the loudest and oppressing the most harshly while insisting on undifferentiated love and blind obedience."
All this is funand even relevant, since what Martha so brilliantly sells is herself. But the most interesting part of this book is its account of how she transformed her association with K Mart from a tool to promote the discounter into a tool to promote Marthaboth as a brand and as a financial juggernaut. According to Byron, when Martha bought out Time Warner's majority stake in her company, $ 16 million of the $ 18 million cash portion of the price came directly from K Mart. Her out-of-pocket cost: $ 2 million. The value of her stock the day the company went public: $ 1.27 billion. Now that's crafty. DENISE MARTIN (MONEY Magazine, August, 2002)
Speaking of scandals, does Martha Stewart know how to keep her name before the public or what? For a scathing portrait of the domestic diva, check out Martha Inc.: The Incredible Story of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (Wiley) by journalist Christopher Byron. The book was published before Stewart's insider-trading scandal erupted, and therefore can't provide the details that many readers crave. Nonetheless, it colorfully chronicles Stewart's life and rapid ascent following the publication of her book Entertaining in 1982. Although Byron clearly admires Stewart's ability to turn herself into a multimillion-dollar brand, he revels in unflattering anecdotes from such sources as her former catering partner, ex-colleagues from Kmart Corp., and the tour guides, neighbors, and journalists she has alienated. It's not exactly a balanced effort since those who might feel more positively about Stewart, such as business partner Sharon Patrick - not to mention Stewart herself - did not grant interviews to the author. Byron's best moments come when he examines the business, underscoring the difficulty of maintaining any operation built around one human being. "It makes for a fascinating, if clearly lopsided, read," said reviewer Diane Brady. (BusinessWeek, December 9, 2002)