ALDERSON, W.Va. -- Wasting no time, Martha Stewart left prison in the wee hours today and quickly set her sights on rebuilding her homemaking empire after serving a five-month sentence for lying about a stock sale.
Stewart left the prison at 12:30 a.m in a two-vehicle motorcade and headed to an airport, where she boarded a private jet bound for New York. Before boarding with her daughter, Alexis, Stewart smiled and waved to reporters and fans.
Gone was her prison garb -- Stewart was dressed in a gray-and-white poncho, dark jeans, and ankle boots.
Stewart, 63, has 72 hours after leaving Alderson to report to corrections officials in New York. At that time, she will be fitted with an electronic ankle bracelet so her movements can be monitored.
Under the terms of her confinement, she will be allowed to leave her compound for up to 48 hours a week for her job, including working on her version of the hit reality TV show ''The Apprentice."
She also will star in a revival of her homemaking show, and will resume her $900,000-a-year salary.
In the process, Stewart hopes to turn around the fortunes of a company that produces everything from television shows and magazines to bed sheets and bakeware.
Despite the media fascination with Stewart, the future of the firm that bears her name is much less certain.
And there are questions about how Stewart will work with the company's strong new chief executive, Susan M. Lyne, a widely respected former ABC entertainment head who is attempting to put her own mark on the company.
When Stewart officially returns to work, she will take the title of ''founder." While she could technically reassume the chief executive job, legal analysts say she is unlikely to do so because she still faces a Securities and Exchange Commission civil suit that seeks to bar her for life from serving as a director at a public company and limit her ability to serve as an officer.
During her time at the federal women's camp in Alderson, Stewart kept with her lemonade-from-lemons attitude and sought to imprint her style on the prison.
She foraged for dandelions and other wild greens, concocted recipes in a microwave, and even ate from a vending machine. She also participated in nightly yoga classes and lost weight.
Stewart also took on inmate rights, saying her fellow prisoners risked falling into a ''severe depression" because of false hopes raised by a recent US Supreme Court ruling striking down federal sentencing guidelines.
''The experience of the last five months in Alderson, West Virginia has been life altering and life affirming," Stewart said in a statement posted on her website. ''You can be sure that I will never forget the friends that I met here, all that they have done to help me over these five months, their children, and the stories they have told me."
Stewart's release came one day shy of the one-year anniversary of her conviction in New York on charges stemming from her 2001 sale of nearly 4,000 shares of the biotech company
Prosecutors alleged that Stewart received a tip that Waksal was unloading his shares ahead of a negative government report about an ImClone cancer drug. The stock tumbled in the following days, and Stewart saved $51,000 on the sale.
Stewart's lawyers argued the sale was based on a prearranged agreement with her stockbroker, Peter Bacanovic, to sell once the stock dropped to $60 per share.
Stewart was convicted of obstructing justice and lying to the government. Bacanovic is serving a five-month federal sentence, and Waksal was convicted on a separate charge of insider trading.
Material from the