Size Doesn't Matter in Playboy Bidding War - NBC Chicago

Size Doesn't Matter in Playboy Bidding War

Hefner owns voting rights for the company



    Size Doesn't Matter in Playboy Bidding War
    Anna Berglund, Hugh Hefner and Crystal Harris arrive at the Kandyland V Benefit and Hot Tub Time Machine Blu ray DVD Launch at The Playboy Mansion June 26 in Beverly Hills, California.

    The company that owns Penthouse magazine, FriendFinder Networks Inc., upped the ante in its bid to acquire the struggling Playboy Enterprises when it offered $210 million for the company.

    That's $25 million more than Hugh Hefner offered earlier this week to buy out the magazine and take it private.

    But size isn't everything in this bidding war.

    Hef owns 69.5 percent of the company's Class A stock (and 27.7 percent of the Class B stock.) The Class A shares give him voting control over the company and the board does not have the power to force him to sell.

    "If he doesn't want to sell, there's no deal," RBC Capital Markets analyst David Bank said.

    Hefner tweeted Tuesday about the smut showdown.

    “Playboy isn’t in play. I’m buying not selling.”

    Playboy's stock price has tumbled since hitting a peak in 1999 of more than $32. It traded between $2.30 and $5.22 over the past year before jumping on news of Hefner's offer. It was up 21 cents, or nearly 4 percent, to $5.72 in afternoon trading Thursday.

    The company's namesake magazine has struggled with competition from the Web, losing readers and advertisers. It has tried to make up for a declining print business by licensing its brand and the iconic bunny ears for consumer products.

    Marc Bell, FriendFinder's CEO, believes his company can help build Playboy's brand online by directing traffic to it from the company's other websites.

    In a letter to Playboy's board, Bell said he wants to keep Hefner in charge of the magazine. "We would propose an arrangement where we would partner with Mr. Hefner in our efforts to drive shareholder value," he said.

    It's not clear why Hefner wants to buy the remaining shares and take the company private. In a letter to Playboy's board, Hefner said he worries about the editorial direction of the magazine and its legacy. At 84, he still serves as creative director and editor-in-chief.

    Hefner said his potential partner in the offer, private equity firm Rizvi Traverse Management LLC, is confident it can get the necessary financing. It would cost them about $123 million to buy the stake Hefner doesn't own.

    It could be that Hefner "simply sees an undervalued asset and may be unwilling to wait for the market to recognize the value he perceives," Bank said.