CHICAGO—The Guardian is reporting that Iconix Brand Group, which has reportedly been in private talks with Playboy, has in fact made a tentative offer, and that Jim Griffiths, the former head of entertainment at Playboy, has “teamed up with the private equity firm Golden Gate Capital to make a competing bid.”
In response to a query regarding the reported offer, an Iconix representative told AVN on Friday that it does not respond to rumors. On Thursday, Playboy posted a message to its media page saying, “In response to inquiries related to a potential sale of the company, in keeping with its policy, PEI does not comment on matters of this type.”
Over the past month the escalating chatter about the various inquiries, meetings and negotiations that have apparently been under way regarding a sale of the iconic adult brand has culminated this week in a flurry of stories about an imminent deal.
Still, the Guardian concedes, “Any deal would require the approval of Playboy's founder and figurehead, Hugh Hefner, who this month filed for divorce from his second wife, former Playmate of the Year Kimberley Conrad. Although the 83-year-old stepped back from managing the business in 1988, handing over the reins to his daughter Christie, he still has about 70 percent of the voting rights in a company that he floated on the New York Stock Exchange back in 1971. Christie Hefner stepped down at the start of this year, ending five decades in which the company had been led by a family member.”
The company is reportedly seeking $300 million, an amount that was also on the table earlier in the year, when investment bankers were trying to drum up interest in a sale to private equity firms, according to the Guardian. The volatile economic climate at the time put off potential buyers, but a stabilizing economy seems to be reviving interest.
The long-term challenges Playboy faces remain, however, as revenue across the divisions continues to decline in the face of falling ad sales and fewer premium television channel subscribers. Playboy recently announced a $1.1 million quarterly loss. Even its licensing division, which has been its bulwark against even greater losses, has seen declines; in the three months leading up to September, Playboy's licensing business reported a 16 percent decline in income with royalty payments dropping off as demand for goods slumped amid the global recession, the Guardian reports.
The Playboy logo remains one of the world’s most recognized, however, a fact that is not lost on the suitors that continue to ask for the bunny’s hand in marriage, even if they remain skittish about making their intentions public.