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Martha Stewart Living sold for $353 million

The empire Martha Stewart constructed on the strength of cooking tips, consumer media and home products will end its tenure as an independent company. Sequential Brands Group (SQBG), which controls properties like Linens N Things and And1, has reached a deal to acquire Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO) for $353 million. Stewart will become chief creative officer and remain actively involved in her namesake brand’s operations, the companies announced Monday.AP COMEDY CENTRAL ROAST OF JUSTIN BIEBER - SHOW A ENT USA CA

The deal comes as Martha Stewart Living has been contracting amid a challenging environment for traditional media companies, which have been clobbered by the Internet. Sequential is expected to focus primarily on growing Martha Stewart Living’s home goods business. “The Sequential team is smart, hardworking, and understands the power and limitless opportunity of the Martha Stewart brand and its formidable design, editorial and marketing teams,” Stewart said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to working with them.”

The proliferation of online competitors in the do-it-yourself space — ranging from homemade YouTube videos to professionally produced websites — has undercut Martha Stewart’s empire. The company has slashed money-losing businesses in recent years and cut jobs. In 2012, the company ended its live TV operations. In 2014, it licensed its magazines to Meredith Corp. The company’s home goods are considered among its most valuable assets, generating 40% of its revenue in 2014. Martha Stewart Living, founded in 1997, employed a peak of about 600 workers in 2012 but now has about 270.

Like many media organizations grounded in the print world, Martha Stewart Living has also faltered in its digital strategy. In 2014, Web traffic to the company’s online brands was flat, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, even as traffic soared for many other online organizations. Still, the Martha Stewart brand retains a cachet among the company’s targeted audience: 25-to-54-year-old college-educated women homeowners. Sequential, which expects the deal to be finished in the second half of 2015, is paying $6.15 per share for the company. That’s 81% higher than the stock’s 52-week low of $3.40. Sequential shares ticked up 12 cents to $17.12 in early trading.