Organizations or groups that are personality-driven and/or essentially defined by the personality of a charismatic leader, have often been called “cults.”

However, not all cults are destructive and many over the centuries have been relatively benign.

It seems some American corporations can be seen as consumer “cults,” often driven and/or defined by their founder’s personality.

The saga of the corporate Multi-media Empire wrought by Martha Stewart appears to be one example.

This commercial kingdom is so identified and defined by its creator, it is called “Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc.”

But Martha’s empire has lost half its value, since the stature of its leader began to crumble.

Would Stewart’s cult following stay loyal to the brand without the presence of her personality?

Martha Stewart is an “extreme case of this corporate cult of personality,” reports the Boston Globe.

But there are other personality-driven enterprises such as Oprah Winfey’s synergistic media holdings, which continue to thrive.

Rosie O’Donnell seemed to be embarking on the path of Oprah, until “coming out” became more important to the talk show host than being in the money.

What will be Martha Stewart’s corporate legacy if she is killed in court?

Will her magazine fold, like George did, not long after founder John F. Kennedy Jr. died?

Most cults end or slowly whither away after the leader dies or self-destructs.

There is no “Family” without Charles Manson. And groups like Synanon, Aum and the Nuwaubians faded after their leaders were prosecuted.

But it seems that if there are significant assets and an ample cash flow “cults” can continue after a founder dies.

Witness how Scientology soldiers on undaunted by L. Ron Hubbard’s death in the 80s. Its celebrity faithful like John Travolta and Tom Cruise have not lost faith and keep paying for Hubbard’s “technology.”

The die-hard followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh still watch his videos long after their leader’s demise. And they gather to honor him at the still active ashram he started in India.

But after Herbert Armstrong died his Worldwide Church of God struggled to establish a new identity. And it shrank as adherents exited. It seems without Armstrong there was no lasting loyalty.

Which historical “cult” example will Stewart’s “corporate cult of personality” parallel?

Will there be consumer fealty for “Martha Stewart Living,” if Martha is living in prison?

Her fans might move on to a less controversial and/or embattled “domestic diva.”

Martha Stewart may have taught Americans that simplicity is timeless, but it seems probable that her cult following will dwindle if she does any time.

Cult apologist Philip Arnold trotted out for a Davidian pep rally near Waco last month. And wouldn’t you know that Rev. Moon‘s Washington Times would pop in a plug.

The Moon-controlled newspaper ran the story “Davidians, friends gather in Waco to praise Koresh,” which read more like a press release from cult members, than objective journalism.

Arnold went so far as to compare David Koresh to “Jesus.”

He claimed, “Like Jesus, Koresh came into conflict with traditional theology and was handed over to authorities, who ultimately killed him.”

But does anyone recall passages in the New Testament about “Jesus” abusing women and children, or stockpiling weapons? In fact, didn’t Jesus urge his following to obey civil authority?

Maybe Arnold should brush up on his bible?

Apparently the apologist largely blames the FBI for the tragedy. He stated, “The FBI delivered the apocalypse of the Book of Revelations to the Davidians,” seemingly placing the responsibility for the tragedy with the government.

Arnold runs something called the “Reunion Institute” in Houston and has been touted by the Church of Scientology as a “religious resource.”

During the Waco standoff in 1993 Arnold and an academic friend James Tabor, another “resource” promoted by Scientology, set up shop in Waco and garnered attention with claims they could somehow work with Koresh to end the standoff.

They obviously failed, but don’t expect them to admit this. Instead, the academics insist more time was needed. It seems 51 days just wasn’t enough.

Both Arnold and Tabor were once associated with the controversial Worldwide Church of God, another group frequently called a “cult.”

Various Davidians and hanger-ons rallied for the 10th anniversary of the ill-fated standoff with Arnold, all holding forth with essentially the same refrain. That is, Koresh and his followers were “persecuted” and victimized by federal law-enforcement.

However, two congressional hearings, an independent investigation and a jury concluded otherwise.

Never mind.

Apologists like Arnold and the remaining Davidians are too deeply and personally invested in their positions to face the facts about the cult murder/suicide.

The Washington Times, which is controlled by a purported “cult leader,” likewise is invested in its own agenda and can be expected to slant news coverage accordingly.

Don’t expect a newspaper controlled by Rev. Moon to be interested in an exploration of how destructive cult leaders exercise undue influence over their followers. That might be bad for business.

The Worldwide Church of God was built upon the exclusive claims made by its founder Herbert W. Armstrong.

Armstrong concocted a religion, which some called a “cult,” that was apparently an amalgam of several sects. Like Jehovah’s Witnesses he denied the Christian belief in trinity and insisted upon observing his version of the feast days and festivals of Judaismt. Armstrong also incorporated a belief about British-Israelism, which holds one day Jesus will rule from the throne of Great Britain.

This unique blend of theology and practice eventually netted Armstrong more than 160,000 followers, which he ruled over like a dictator for decades. It also afforded him a lavish lifestyle that included mansions, costly furnishings and a personal jet.

However, when Armstrong died in 1986 his religious empire went through a kind of evolution or what some might call a “revolution.”

His successors made an effort to effectively mainstream their isolated group into Protestantism. But after accepting the doctrines and moderate beliefs of their Christian brethren, Worldwide membership dropped drastically.

It seems without its peculiar dogma that the religion lost its attraction. And many Worldwiders felt there was no longer much reason to belong and tithe to the church. Schisms and splintering have subsequently reduced Worldwide to about 60,000 adherents, though its annual revenue is still about $25 million dollars.

The modernization of Worldwide doesn’t seem to have included democratization and/or opened up the issue of meaningful financial accountability to the membership. A power elite still appears to run the organization without referendum and they recently decided to hold an auction.

In what can be seen as a symbolic liquidation they sold off some of the opulent residue that still remained from Armstrong’s glory days, reports The Pasadena Star News.

It appears that the “cult” Herbert Armstrong built may gradually disappear without the man and idiosyncratic beliefs that made it so unique and compelling to its faithful.

The 50-acre Ambassador College campus property in Pasadena, once the crown jewel of Armstrong’s holdings, is now being developed into residential housing to provide designated pastors with pensions.