We’ve all seen those movies where the man who built a company fights to keep it against a tide of back stabbing board members and stockholders giddy to sell out for a quick buck, legacy be damned. Well, there couldn’t be a sexier vehicle to reprise the theme than what’s unfolding now in real life, because the pioneer of porn peddlers wants his smut back.
Playboy long ago went public and goo-goo-eyed centerfold godfather Hugh Hefner this week offered a 40 percent premium over Friday’s closing price for any shares that aren’t already in his fat wallet. His main competition? Archrival Penthouse. That magazine, whose catch phrase isn’t the bunny-eseque “tastefully done,” said it is going to issue a counteroffer.
The internet age, and all the porn producing competition it has spawned, has not been kind to Hef. Playboy’s stock price, which hit a high of $52+ in 1999, has been trading in the $2 to $5 range in recent years. Porn isn’t even the company’s bread and butter anymore. The legacy of porn is. Merchandising is where Playboy is cashing in now. Bunny shirts and panties, licensing and the like, are the main streams of cash that keep Hef awash in pajamas and surgically enhanced, Viagra-fearing trophy pieces these days.
Hef thinks the brand is well-suited for the digital age, and he’s willing to pay to keep his legacy his.