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Martha Stewart new nonexecutive chairman

Martha Stewart, right, with Ralph and Ricky Lauren

Martha Stewart, right, with Ralph and Ricky Lauren at a Manhattan celebration for the publication of “The Hamptons: Food, Family and History” by Ricky Lauren. (May 22, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

Martha Stewart's back. The doyenne of the lifestyle industry was named Wednesday as nonexecutive chairman of the media and merchandising company that she created 15 years ago.

Stewart rejoined the board of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. in September, at the end of a five-year ban on serving as a board member or executive of a public company as part of a settlement with federal regulators related to insider trading.

As nonexecutive chairman, Stewart will help set the direction for the business but will have no direct operating role. An executive chairman would typically also hold a top management role such as being chief executive.

"I look forward to working closely with our directors and our management team as we focus on the future, capitalizing on the strength of our brand and our amazing customer connection to continue building our business so that it realizes its full and considerable potential," Stewart said.

Stewart was convicted in 2004 on federal criminal charges of lying to prosecutors about selling ImClone shares a day before the Food and Drug Administration announced it declined to review an ImClone application for a cancer drug. She served five months in prison.

In 2006, the Securities and Exchange Commission agreed to settle a related civil case against Stewart. Under the agreement, Stewart agreed to pay about $58,000 as well as a civil penalty of about three times the loss she avoided, or about $137,000. She also agreed to the five-year ban from serving on the board or as an officer of a public company.

Stewart succeeds Charles Koppelman as nonexecutive chairman.

Earlier this month, Martha Stewart Living reported a smaller-than-expected first-quarter loss on lower expenses.

The company has a merchandising deal with The Home Depot Inc. J.C. Penney Co. announced in December that it will develop mini-shops in its stores with Stewart. However, that is being legally contested by Macy's Inc., which also offers Martha Stewart products.

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