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Stewart gets warm applause from shareholders

NEW YORK — Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc.’s top executive told shareholders Tuesday that the multimedia company’s turnaround is being positioned for September, when its namesake founder’s revised daily TV show and 24-hour radio program will begin airing. But President and CEO Susan Lyne warned that returning the company to profitability will take some time.

“It won’t happen overnight, but we are encouraged,” about the warm reception from customers and advertisers following Stewart’s return, said Lyne, who replaced longtime executive Sharon Patrick in November in a management shakeup.

Amid rousing applause from about 130 shareholders at the annual meeting, Stewart, released from prison in early March, declared that “the hard times are pretty much over.”

The founder and majority shareholder gushed that she’s “absolutely thrilled” about the future of the company, which is starting to see its fortunes turn around now that her legal woes are over.

Stewart, who completed a five-month prison sentence in March for lying about a stock sale, is now serving five months of house arrest.

The mood at this year’s shareholders’ meeting was clearly more upbeat than a year ago, when Stewart, convicted in March 2004, was awaiting prison sentencing. Last year’s meeting came on the heels of a wider-than-expected loss for the first quarter, and the suspension of Stewart’s daily syndicated TV show.

“Last year, we were stunned and apprehensive,” said Carol Christ, a Lebanon, Penn., resident and a member of a Martha Stewart club, which owns 100 shares. “Now, the future is looking bright.”