Legendary men’s magazine publisher Playboy Enterprises Inc. of Beverly Hills is exploring a sale of the company, reportedly seeking more than $500 million.
While no reported buyers have surfaced, Peter Kreisky, founder of Kreisky Media Consultancy in New York, said Friday that while the timing of the announcement was unexpected, it was long overdue.
“As long as (Hugh) Hefner was around, the enterprise was print-centric, so I am surprised that it took (the firm) so long to realize that it passed its sell-by date,” he said. “With the right buyer, however, Playboy could retain its great value in the hands of new management who can breathe new life into it with a different and more modern approach.”
Hefner, 89, took Playboy private in 2011 in a private-equity backed deal valued at about $207 million, and Forbes has reported that Hefner’s “post-acquisition control of the famed brand is largely honorary.”
Scott Flanders was named chief executive in 2009 after Hefner’s daughter Christie ended her 20-year-tenure at the helm of the firm.
News of the potential sale was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, which said the company could opt to sell its divisions separately or forego an acquisition altogether. The company put its iconic Holmby Hills mansion up for sale in January.
The magazine, once hugely popular and a signifier of hip, is now a loss-leader that exists for the sake of the publisher’s licensing and digital media operations.
Nowhere is that shift more apparent than in China, which has become the company’s biggest licensing market even though sales of the magazine have been banned due to state censorship rules. Playboy-branded products generated more than $500 million in retail sales in the country in 2014, representing about 40 percent of its overall revenue, according to a New York Times report published in October.
In fact, Kreisky said, the desire to grow sales in China probably led to the company’s decision last year to stop publishing nude photos. Along those same lines, he said there’s a strong possibility that an Asian buyer would be interested in acquiring the Playboy brand due to its strong overseas appeal.
“(The sale) may be interest to somebody in Asia, because the Playboy brand is still strong there,” he said. “I don’t think the company will be broken up, as the value of Playboy as a whole is clear in this market.”
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