NEW YORK – Macy's Inc should have had a chance to match rival J.C. Penney's offer to carry Martha Stewart products in its stores, the former chairman of Stewart's company testified on Thursday.
Charles Koppelman, a music mogul and corporate crisis manager who became chairman of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia in 2005, said he told the board it was a mistake to keep the proposal from Macy's Chief Executive Terry Lundgren.
Macy's sued MSLO and J.C. Penney last year after the companies announced an agreement to sell a line of Martha Stewart products. Macy's claims the deal breaches a contract it has to sell Martha Stewart home goods in certain exclusive categories, including cookware, bedding and bath.
"I wanted to offer Mr. Lundgren and Macy's the opportunity to do the deal that J.C. Penney was proposing to the company," Koppelman said on the witness stand Thursday in New York state court. He said he made that recommendation to Stewart, the board and a special committee seeking business opportunities.
"Their view was that was not something I should do," he said.
Macy's Lundgren testified last week that he was "blown away" when Stewart called him the night before the J.C. Penney deal was announced in December 2011. He said he would have liked the opportunity to counter the offer.
Lundgren said he hung up on Stewart after she told him the Penney deal would be good for Macy's. He said he has not spoken to her since.
Stewart, 71, who took the witness stand on Tuesday, said she was "flabbergasted" by Lundgren's angry reaction at news of her J.C. Penney partnership. "It didn't occur to me that there weren't enough customers to go around," she said.
Koppelman joined MSLO when the domestic diva was found guilty of lying about a stock trade in 2004. She went to prison for five months, and he stepped down as chair last year when Stewart resumed the post.
Martha Stewart is the No. 1 home brand at Macy's, while J.C. Penney views the brand as vital to its turnaround strategy.
The Penny's deal includes a 17 percent stake in Stewart's company, which also has been struggling.
(Reporting by Karen Freifeld; Editing by Dan Grebler)