CHICAGO - News wires lit up this week with the word that Playboy Enterprises could be on the block following a fourth-quarter loss of $145.7 million. Company reps have now gone on the record to clarify that Playboy is not for sale.
The source of the sale rumors was a remark from interim chairman and CEO Jerome Kern during a conference call to investors on Wednesday. When asked if the company would consider a buyout or a change in editorial direction now that longtime CEO Christie Hefner has stepped down from her position, Kern said, "We're willing to listen."
"This is no change in policy," Playboy spokeswoman Elizabeth Austin told the New York Times. "We've always been open to discussion."
While Playboy might examine offers regarding company assets, Austin said, "the magazine is not for sale."
Investor Jonathan Boyar of Boyar Asset Management told the Times and Washington Post he believes there will be changes now that Christie Hefner is gone.
"Playboy is among the world's most recognizable brand names, and the ubiquitous Playboy bunny logo is probably as well-known as the Nike swoosh," he said. "But unfortunately, for shareholders, that's probably where it ends."
Boyar feels Playboy has failed to fully capitalize on its powerful brand.
"They have not been able to monetize the brand the way they should," he said. "It's a sad fact that despite the power of its brand image, it has failed to capture one-tenth of one percent of the world's multi-billion adult entertainment market."
According to the Times, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner has been in Italy attending the Sanremo Music Festival. The 82-year-old Hefner has offered no comment on the possible sale of the company or its financial state.
For more about Playboy's 2008 Q4 report, please see Wednesday's AVN Online story.