Martha Stewart just told us what it felt like to suddenly become a billionaire in a single day

Martha StewartJim EdwardsMartha Stewart poses in Cannes at a brunch hosted by the Daily Mail.

One of the great delights of the Cannes Lions festival are the random meetings, and this morning two staff from Business Insider had brunch in the morning sunshine with Martha Stewart.

In real life, Stewart is much more down to earth and self-deprecating than she is on TV. She talked about how she built the catering business she ran out of her home into a multimedia lifestyle empire, what she did to pass the time in prison after she was convicted of conspiracy in a stock-fraud case, and the difficulty of planting 10,000 trees at once when you have a garden that’s 100 acres big.

Best of all, she is really funny.

At one point, Stewart told us how she felt on the day Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia launched its IPO. She rang the bell that morning on the New York Stock Exchange, and the stock tripled in value before closing up 97% at 4 p.m. The IPO turned Stewart into an instant billionaire:

“That was a great day. I drove up Madison Avenue after the offering. I was an instant $1.6 billionaire. It was a fabulous day and I thought, huh … I can buy anything on this street! I was driving up Madison Avenue and I was so stupid, I’m writing my autobiography and one of the chapters is called ‘Coulda woulda shoulda,’ And I shoulda stopped! Like at every art gallery on the way up Madison Avenue, and just bought what I loved. But I was too busy working.”

“But I have no regrets! I served cupcakes, croissants, everything homemade to all the traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange!”

Martha StewartJim EdwardsMartha Stewart chats to Daily Mail writer Anne Shooter.

Business Insider also asked her what her new life is like since she merged MLSO into Sequential Brands, which owns Joe’s, Jessica Simpson, Avia, and Emeril Lagasse, among other media brands. She said:

“It’s good, it’s very good. It’s taken some pressure off me. It has enabled me to own more companies. I now own parts of 20-something other companies. So I am learning more. And the new young management at Sequential, the CEO is 34 years old, I love working with a younger bunch. I think it was the exact right thing for me to do. So it’s a breath of fresh air.”

“And I’m richer!”

Martha StewartThe Daily Mail / HandoutStewart became a billionaire during the dotcom boom in 1999.

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