Martha Stewart’s contract made us do it__».

Note to the Martha fans: We like Martha. We really do. Those heart-shaped, hand-written notes she adds to tea bags for her guests? Very thoughtful. And the Sweet-Heart arrangement she created with red tulips and cinnamon candies? Lovely! Especially for Valentine’s Day.

So — with that acknowledgment out of the way, and the fact that some fans (presumably non-investors) think that Martha is —worth every penny she makes — we can’t help but poke at the 8-K that Martha Stewart Omnimedia (MSO) filed yesterday The filing may be a good thing for Martha, but it’s not exactly good for employee morale and investor confidence.

Here’s the passage that caught our attention:

…On February 6, 2008, the Compensation Committee of the Board of Directors of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. (the —Company) determined that, other than the guaranteed minimum bonus payable to Ms. Stewart pursuant to her contract, no named executive officer of the Company would receive a cash bonus of more than 15% of such employee’s target cash bonus award (equal in amount to the amount advanced in December 2008).

Under the terms of the proxy filed last April, Martha will receive a guaranteed bonus of $495,000 on top of her $2-plus million dollars in compensation and another $2 million that she receives for letting her company film her television show at one of her homes (as we footnoted here last August).

The other named executive officers — including Co-CEOs Wenda Harris Millard and Robin Marino — presumably got the “no more than 15%” get nothing since their contracts don’t use the word guaranteed.

While the company won—t announce its fourth-quarter results for another two weeks, the company’s performance last year was underwhelming. The third-quarter results were disappointing, and this article notes that in 2008, the company laid off 100 employees. And the stock has been trading at under $5 a share since mid-November. Given that environment, one might have expected Martha to be a bit more magnanimous here, perhaps spreading her guaranteed bonus around. AT&T’s (T) CEO, Randall Stephenson declined a bonus after the company’s fourth-quarter earnings fell 23%. The company also announced that no managers or executives would receive pay raises in 2009 in order to try and save as many employees’ jobs as possible.

A “guaranteed” bonus doesn’t mean that the recipient has to accept the money. She could, in fact, share the money with her colleagues or laid-off former employees, or she could decline it altogether with a very polite (and hand-written) thank-you note.

Image Source: Pacific Coast News