Choose Your Own Centerfold: Playboy on Sale for $300M

Photo: Is Playboy dead? Even porn isn?t immune from the recession

Ever wanted to pick your own Playboy centerfold?

Now might be your chance. It appears that the iconic magazine is being shopped around, with potential bidders being asked around $300 million for the publication. The market capitalization of the company's stock is hovering around $100 million.

Several giant players in the private equity field have been approached, including Apollo Capital Partners and Providence Equity Partners, which both refused to pay such a high premium, unnamed sources told the New York Post.

But a bidder might also come from overseas: Virgin Media, the U.K. cell phone, Internet and television giant. (The company licenses the popular Virgin name and logo from Sir Richard Branson.) The Daily Mail said Virgin's name has been "raised as a potential buyer by speculators," but that nothing solid has yet to materialize.

It seems that even porn isn't immune from the recession. Playboy, probably the most famous adult magazine, is struggling to stay alive and is about to undertake "radical changes" in what many see as a last-ditch effort to continue publishing.

Click Here to See Playboy Covers Through the Years

Options being considered including publishing less often, reducing circulation and raising prices.

"It is clear that this company cannot continue to sustain significant losses in a business that now comprises less than one-quarter of the company's revenue base," Jerome Kern, interim chief executive for Playboy Enterprises said during an analyst conference earlier this month.

So, does that signal the end for the magazine, which first started in 1953?

"The magazine will never fold as long as Hugh Hefner is alive," said Samir Husni, the chair of the journalism department at the University of Mississippi.

And even then, it might not make sense to close the publication. Husni said a money-losing magazine can still help profits at other Playboy ventures, such as online content and video.

In the last three decades, Husni said, Playboy has lost its relevancy and has had to compete with an increasing tide of porn that has made its magazine "look like Sesame Street for kids."

"It lost on the intellectual side for people who actually bought Playboy to read it. And it lost on the other side for people who just bought Playboy to look at the pictures because there were plenty of pictures now everywhere," he said. "As much as you shake the magazine, it doesn't move the same way it moves on the Internet."

Joe Francis, founder of the Girls Gone Wild video empire, said he has tried to purchase Playboy in the past and now doesn't consider the business salvageable.

"Their overhead is astronomical. They have no core business that's attractive," Francis said.

He blames the demise on Hefner, 83, who he said "refuses to change and evolve the brand" because of ego.

Still, Francis acknowledges the groundbreaking role Playboy has had on American and world culture.

Girls Gone Wild

"If Playboy hadn't existed, Girls Gone Wild wouldn't exist because I most certainly saw my first naked woman in a Playboy magazine," he said.

Francis said that while he wouldn't try to buy Playboy today, a friend of his -- who he wouldn't name -- is seriously looking at it.

"There's something to be said for an older guy to own Playboy because it means something for you," he said.

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