Hefner Takes Playboy Private

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Playboy founder Hugh Hefner is taking his financially troubled adult entertainment company private. Hefner's Icon Acquisition Holdings has purchased Playboy for an estimated $207 million, winning out against a competing $210 million bid from the owner of rival Penthouse.

Playboy launched in 1953 and went public in 1971 after a period of rapid expansion under Hefner's leadership, but has struggled in recent years with sagging circulation and advertising revenue, as it increasingly competes with free adult entertainment online.

Commentators have greeted the news with the inevitable jokes about a private Playboy, along with some serious analysis:

  • Playboy: Bad Business, Good Perks, observes Hamilton Nolan at Gawker: "Now Hugh Hefner can live out the remainder of his days as the king of Playboy, having group sex with well-compensated bottle blondes in his palace of poop."
  • Typical Hefner, jokes Corky Siemaszko at the New York Daily News: He "doesn't want to share his favorite plaything with anybody--and we're not talking about bombshell fiancee Crystal Harris."
  • A Bygone Industry, adds Deadline Hollywood's Nikki Finke: "Let's face it, all that free Internet porn has made the beleaguered Playboy empire into as old a fogie as its founder."
  • Playboy At Crossroads, states Rob Cox at Reuters:

It isn't just that the magazine business has lost its footing with advertisers. The peddling of pornography has changed dramatically and left Playboy’s trademark tamer approach in trouble. The company is at a decisive crossroads: it must decide whether to go for broke in the titillation department or become a brand business. Either route is fraught with danger.

  • Company Has a New Strategic Vision, points out Kent Bernhard Jr. at Portfolio. He explains that the deal represents a "return to Hefner's entrepreneurial roots" and adds that the company's strategy "is to go well beyond the humble magazine featuring naked models and strong articles and turn Playboy into a brand management company."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.