Martha Stewart facing another legal mess

Martha Stewart facing another legal mess

Martha Stewart facing another legal mess

Print
Email
|

by CARLOS BOETTCHER, AARON KATERSKY and SUSANNA KIM

WHAS11.com

Posted on March 5, 2013 at 1:01 PM

(ABC NEWS) -- Martha Stewart returned to a New York courtroom Tuesday to testify in a legal spat between Macy's Inc. and J.C. Penney Co. over which retailer has rights to the domestic diva's product line.

Macy's sued Martha Stewart Living for breach of contract in Jan. 2012, saying an agreement to sell products at J.C. Penney in 2011 ran counter to Stewart's deal with Macy's in 2006.

Stewart, 71, took the stand in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan. It's been eight years since she was convicted of lying to authorities about her sale of ImClone stock and served a prison term.

In a short, light brown skirt and matching vest with a cream colored blouse underneath Stewart answered questions about the Macy's, J.C. Penney dispute.

Stewart founded Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia in 1997 and she is chairwoman of the public company. The company's stock (NYSE: MSO) fell 1.2 percent to $2.47 a share at 10:15 a.m. EST.

Asked by Ted Grossman, attorney for Macy's, whether she was comfortable on the witness stand, Stewart replied, "As comfortable as can be."

Macy's insists it has exclusive rights to Stewart's line of linens and other home items and is suing to block J.C. Penney from selling similar products.

Asked whether Stewart's company suggested to Macy's that it could or would sell goods in any competing department store Stewart answered, "There were categories that were non-exclusive to Macy's that we could sell in other department stores."

Stewart said she did business with lots of other stores.

"I don't know if you can consider Petsmart a department store for pets," she said. "Michaels is kind of a department store for crafts."

The prosecution repeatedly tried to tar Stewart as cut-throat businesswoman willing to let others assume the risk even as she raked in profits, a characterization that Stewart rejected.

"We take tremendous risk," she said. "Our first obligation is to our consumer."

The contract dispute at the core of the case was mentioned only occasionally in the initial proceedings, leading Stewart to remark, with some exasperation, "If we are getting into the contract maybe we should, you know, do that."

Macy's questions the legality of over 900 home product designs that Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia gave to J.C. Penney, saying they were exclusively for Macy's to sell.

"We thought, and I hope rightly so, that were allowed to do such a thing," said Stewart when asked about the designs.

Stewart's defense is that this was a misunderstanding rather than a calculated act, a critical distinction for the case, and for her brand.

Click here for more from ABC News.

Print
Email
|