Playboy Enterprises may soon have a new owner.
The company behind the often controversial brainchild of the red robe-adorned Hugh Hefner, Playboy Magazine, is believed to be considering the sale of some or all of its assets in the aftermath of plummeting circulation figures, which the BBC estimates to be about 800,000 customers (compared to 5.6 million in 1975).
According to the Wall Street Journal, anonymous sources believe that Playboy Enterprises would pull in more than $500 million in all in a fire sale despite the magazine’s landmark decision — as documented by the Inquisitr — to stop publishing nude pictorials as recently as last year.
Company chief executive Scott Flanders told the BBC that this decision was primarily due to the inability of Playboy Magazine — and in particular its print-based digest — to compete with freely available forms of pornography that are available via the internet.
Despite claims by company officials that Playboy’s average readership has gotten younger — from 47 to 30 — with this change, The Journal noted that not all of its executives were in favor of the decision, and, in fact, see it as a form of watering down an already strong brand.
In particular, Hugh Hefner’s 24-year-old son, Cooper, has come out as against the change, saying that he believes that Playboy Magazine lost a lot of its identity when it eliminated all-nude centerfolds.
“Millennials and Gen-Y didn’t view nudity as the issue,” Hefner told Business Insider earlier this year, noting that his own role with Playboy Enterprises has diminished recently due to differences of opinion with the group’s board.
“The issue,” he continued, “was the way in which nudity and the girls were portrayed.”
No doubt, fewer of Playboy’s religiously loyal subscribers still view the magazine as the worldwide institution that it was once considered.
Playboy was founded in 1953 and featured well-known actress Marilyn Monroe as its first “Playmate of the Month.” Since that time, the brand has continued to grow in mainstream recognition, with a number of unique sources of revenue that includes — but is not limited to — regular print publications and a dedicated web-based subscribership; night clubs; restaurants; and the Los Angeles-based Playboy Mansion.
Each is designed to highlight Playboy Enterprises’ roster of “Bunnies” throughout the years, and, more specifically, its identifiable, trademarked bunny-in-a-bowtie logo.
Since being removed from its status as a publicly-traded company in 2011, Playboy Enterprise no longer publicly provides its financial data. The company, which is advised by investment bank Moelis & Co., has noted that it generated $55 million from licensing its brand to other companies, and $38 million from media, which includes print-based magazines and digital subscriptions, per the WSJ. In addition, the licensing business could be worth “hundreds of millions of dollars,” the people familiar with the matter said.
Its value at the time of becoming a private company five years ago was $207 million, with Hefner owning an approximate one-third stake. According to various reports, Playboy has been approached about a potential sale since listing the Playboy Mansion on the open market for $200 million. Under the terms of a potential sale, Hugh Hefner would be permitted to remain in his world-famous home under a “lifelong lease,” BBC noted. If sold for that price, the property would be considered one of the most expensive private residences in the U.S.
According to the WSJ, Moelis is expected to run an auction for Playboy’s assets, and that whether or not the company is sold off as a whole or in pieces — or remains as-is — has yet to be determined.
What is known is that, regardless of how much the brand has suffered in recent years, it would still be considered of high-level value, no doubt thus proving true the age-old adage of Playboy Magazine’s loyalest of subscribers who claim to “only read Playboy for the articles.”
[Image by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]