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Interview With Christopher Byron

Aired May 14, 2003 - 19:17   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Now if we've learned anything from Martha Stewart it's that we can reheat anything. Over the past two days her stock has reheated itself up again, rising more than 25 percent, much like a scrumptious souffle.
And that was because of a "Financial Times" report that her case was heating up with talks about a possible settlement with the Justice Department. Christopher Byron is the author of "Martha Inc." and joins us to talk about her recipe for rebounds.

Thanks for being with us.

CHRISTOPHER BYRON, AUTHOR, "MARTHA INC.:" My pleasure.

COOPER: If there is going to be a settlement as these reports say, what do you think prosecutors want from her?

BYRON: I think they want her to put on a hair shirt in public and say I'm sorry for something to make this go away. This is -- a lot of government resources have been spent on this over the last year.

And I don't think they want her to acknowledge a crime, but they want her to acknowledge something to justify what's happened here. This is a big drama that's gone on for a year.

COOPER: Let's talk scenarios, worst case, best case. Worst case for Martha Stewart would be what?

BYRON: That she doesn't agree, that there is no settlement and then I think they are going to pursue a criminal case against her for making false statements to a government agent and that is a severe felony crime.

COOPER: And best thing that could happen for her right now?

BYRON: She says I'm sorry, I made a mistake and this all goes away.

COOPER: The stock price for her company jumped up, I think, 15, 16 points yesterday, one point today.

BYRON: Yes, yes.

COOPER: What do you make of that? BYRON: I think people think this is going to go away and that no matter what happens, the brand hasn't been irreparably damaged and Martha Stewart is going to live.

COOPER: She's going to be back.

BYRON: Yes. Yes.

COOPER: What do you think, I mean, love her or hate her there is...

BYRON: Those are the two options. There's no middle ground.

COOPER: Why is that with Martha Stewart? Why is it that she...

BYRON: She's Miss Polarizing. She's divided her neighborhood. She divided the Congress. She's now divided the Justice Department. She's a very polarizing figure.

COOPER: Do you think she'll be watching the TV movie about her?

BYRON: I doubt she'll admit it, but I bet she does. That's a great movie.

COOPER: Now if the ratings on that movie do well, do you think she'll be happy about that?

BYRON: I don't know. I mean, it's a great call. You know what? Suppose they don't do well, do you think she'll be happy about that?

COOPER: No. It will show there's no interest, but if there's interest, there's a hope, there's future.

BYRON: Yes. Look, I think there's some future for her here. If she loses, it's been a P.R. nightmare for her from day one and she's got to -- she's got to get this thing behind her somehow.

And we've been down this road this far before, but you have a feeling you're sort of coming to the end of the game now.

COOPER: America loves a comeback. So we'll see if it happens. Christopher Byron, thanks very much.

BYRON: My pleasure.

COOPER: All right.

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