Marc Bell: The Accidental Porn Mogul
Since acquiring Penthouse, Bell has made some major adult industry purchases, and has big plans for the future.
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. -
Posted Feb 07th, 2008 05:35 PM by Sherri L. Shaulis
It's not often someone enters the adult industry by accident. And it's rare that if they do, they stick around to become one of the biggest players in the business.
But Marc Bell, who acquired Penthouse Media Group Inc. in 2004, is exactly that rare breed of person who possesses intellect, drive and a competitive nature that has allowed him to "take over the adult industry," as some have commented.
During his keynote speech Thursday during the XBiz Hollywood conference, Bell not only traced his roots in the adult industry, but also touched on plans for the Penthouse brand in the coming years, and offered a bit of advice to colleagues.
Bell, who formerly served as chairman and CEO of the Globix Corp. in 2002, launched in 2003 the company Marc Bell Capital Partners - an investment group with interests in media and real estate. While Globix was the Internet provider company that managed the Penthouse website, it was Marc Bell Capital Partners that offered up funding to try and save the Penthouse magazine when the Guccione family filed for bankruptcy.
When the Penthouse owners were unable to pay back the funding, it was Marc Bell Capital Partners that acquired Penthouse, an acquisition Bell wasn't sure he wanted to keep.
"We spent a lot of money on market research," he said. In the end, Bell not only kept the magazine and Penthouse's other ventures, but began growing them.
After buying other small companies to help leverage the Penthouse brand name, it was time to think big.
"I figured we were buying all these small companies, why not buy a big one," he said.
It wasn't long until he got a call from Andrew Conru and Legendary Lars, who were looking to sell Various, the parent company of Adult Friend Finder and Cams.com.
But Bell and PMGI haven't stopped there. The magazine has been repositioned, and PMGI has expanded its services in movie making, broadcast and cable television and club licensing. It's all a calculated move to take the company public within the next few months, Bell said.
"I expect us to be four times the size of Playboy by the time we go public," he said.
But Bell doesn't intend to rest on his laurels, and cautioned industry veterans against the same. Citing his initial market research, Bell said PMGI intends to rev up its focus on mobile content, since the research he has said "pay sites will have trouble in the future."
"We are still a few years away from mobile being a true revenue model," he said. "About three to five years away."
In the meantime, PMGI will look to acquire not only more adult products, but also mainstream as well, he said. Already, he's ventured into producing Broadway musicals, including "Hairspray" and "The Producers." His efforts to support The Great White Way have earned him four Tony awards and a Grammy award.
And, he told the crowd, there's the possible acquisition of a Vegas casino in the near future.
For an unlikely entry into the adult industry, Bell has proven himself to be the little porn mogul who could.