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IPO Rumble: Martha Vs. WWF

Wall Street made room Tuesday for the genteel flower-arranging hints of Martha Stewart and the bruising body slams of the World Wrestling Federation, embracing both ventures as they sold stock to the public for the first time.

Shares in Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc., which specializes in how-to information for consumers, nearly tripled at the outset on the New York Stock Exchange, before giving up a little of its gains. Also making a strong debut was World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc., known for its outrageous ring theatrics, which more than doubled on the Nasdaq Stock Market before slipping back a bit.

The initial public offerings of stock, or IPOs, were eagerly awaited because both companies have heavy media involvement and have been making inroads in online marketing.

Martha Stewart Living shares were priced late Monday at $18, higher than the $13 to $15 they originally had been expected to sell at. The offering price is the price at which the stock is made available to preferred customers, most of them institutions such as pension funds.

In public trading Tuesday, the stock opened at $37.25 a share, soared to $52 and was trading at $37.81¼ early in the afternoon.

Shares of World Wrestling common stock had an offering price of $17 a share. The shares opened at $30.50 on the Nasdaq Stock Market and quickly rose to $35 before dropping back to $26.62½ in afternoon trading.

WWF, which has wildly popular weekly cable shows and monthly pay-per-view matches, has said it plans to use proceeds from the offering for working capital and other business purposes.

In its filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission in July, Martha Stewart Living said it planned to use proceeds from the offering to repurchase shares held by Time Publishing Ventures Inc. and for business development.

©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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