British billionaire Sir Richard Branson may get the Playboy empire in the future as soft porn mogul and owner of the empire, Hugh Hefner, is believed to be considering selling it off, according to media reports.
The 83-year-old owner of America’s best-selling men’s glossy magazine could sell the company he founded more than 56 years ago for about $300 million, after its profits slumped in the face of free pornography on the Internet.
Though the company’s market capitalisation has sunk to around $100 million, Hefner is asking for three times that price in order to maintain his lavish lifestyle, the reports added.Two companies, Apollo Capital Partners and Providence Equity Partners, have been approached but declined to make an offer. Now, Branson’s Virgin Media is tipped to be a potential buyer, though no official interest has been expressed.
“Everyone says that he’ll (Hefner) never let go, that he’ll take it to his grave,” a source was quoted by the New York Post as saying.In its heyday in the 1970s, the glossy magazine with its bunny girls was read by a quarter of university students but the rise of the Internet, and with it — free pornography, has taken its toll on the magazine’s sales.It is still America’s best selling men’s magazine — and Hefner and his scantily-clad bunny girls are still a regular fixture on the party scene. But sales have dropped from seven million an issue in 1972 to around three million now.
And in the wake of recession, Playboy has introduced a strict cost-cutting regime and is reported to have laid off 25 per cent of its workforce in Los Angeles and New York.Hefner still controls 70 per cent of the company but his daughter Christine has stepped down as the chief operating officer and formally severed her ties at the company’s annual general meeting last week.
However, a Playboy spokesman denied it had received any offers, insisting there’re no changes to ownership afoot. However, he added that as a public company, Playboy would “listen to proposals that could create value for all of our shareholders”.