March 09, 2004 02:28 PM

Monday proved busy for Martha Stewart, who first met with her probation officer in Lower Manhattan before she headed to midtown to meet with the board of directors at her own namesake company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc., to discuss her future role there.

After meeting with her probation officer for about an hour, Stewart made her first public remarks since being convicted last Friday, the Associated Press reports.

Climbing into the SUV that got her back and forth to court every day during her six-week trial, the domestic diva — wielding an umbrella bearing the logos of various Martha Stewart product brands — stated just before closing the car door behind her: “I want to thank my readers, my viewers and the Internet users. I just want to thank everyone for their support.”

Stewart, accompanied Monday by her lead lawyer Robert Morvillo and attorney Rebecca Monck, did not comment on the probation meeting, which was the first step toward her sentencing on June 17. Bacanovic, with his lawyers, also met with the probation office, then made an obscene hand gesture to the TV cameras as he was driven away afterwards.

Meanwhile on Monday, shares of Stewart’s namesake company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc., were down 90 cents to close at $9.90 on the New York Stock Exchange after tumbling 23 percent on Friday following the guilty verdict.

Also on Monday, her firm’s board of directors met for discussions about Stewart’s future role in the company. No comment was made following that meeting, though Tuesday’s Washington Post reports that Stewart is expected to resign from the company this week, or else the board will announce that her contract will not be renewed. Stewart stepped down as chief executive and chairman of the board last June after being indicted but still remains chief creative officer and a member of the board.

Stewart also resigned from the board of directors of Revlon Inc. after a nearly eight-year tenure, the cosmetics giant announced Monday. In addition, reports The New York Times, Stewart’s syndicated newspaper columns, “AskMartha” and “AskMartha Weddings,” will now be written by editors other than Stewart herself and renamed, respectively, “Living” and “Weddings.”

Business experts have suggested that the troubled Kmart retail chain, which exclusively sells Martha Stewart products from paints and plants to bedsheets, would be hard-pressed to yank her profitable lines from its shelves, though it remains to be seen how consumers respond to labels bearing the name of a convicted felon.

Immediately after the guilty verdicts were announced on Friday, Viacom pulled Stewart’s syndicated show, “Martha Stewart Living,” off of its CBS-owned and operated stations and UPN stations. In addition, Stewart faces probable civil lawsuits from investors who claim that her legal troubles sent the stock price of her Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia into the trash bin.

According to reports, Stewart’s former stockbroker and her co-defendant in the high-profile case, Peter Bacanovic, spent about a half-hour at the same courthouse earlier on Monday at his own probation meeting.

Stewart, 62, and Bacanovic, 41, each are expected to be sentenced to somewhere between 10 to 16 months in prison after they were each convicted on four counts — Stewart, of conspiracy, making false statements and obstruction of justice. Bacanovic was found guilty of conspiracy, false statements, obstruction and perjury. (He was cleared of falsifying a document.)

U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum, who oversaw the trial, will determine the sentences, or even whether Stewart or Bacanovic might spend part of their time in halfway houses or in home confinement. Before that decision, prosecutors and defense lawyers will submit papers arguing for tougher or lighter sentences.

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