Hef Tweets confident on Playboy bid

Hugh Hefner believes a buyout can revitalise the iconic but troubled brand

It has been a busy few days for Hugh Hefner, the octogenarian porn baron, since he offered to buy back full ownership of his Playboy empire – but his followers on Twitter know that the threat of a rival bid from the owners of arch-enemy Penthouse magazine is not disrupting life too much.

"Penthouse is just looking for publicity. They're not in the picture," the lothario tweeted from the Playboy mansion in California that he shares with his bunny-eared female "Playmates". "My interest in taking Playboy private is prompting some crazy rumors. Playboy isn't in play. I'm buying, not selling."

He followed up these blasts with more. "I'm concerned about our minority stock holders & the future of the magazine & the brand," he wrote. Then: "I support my management team & think we're on the road to recovery. Going private should help."

But finally it was back to more pressing matters: "I'll be playing games with the girls tonight, probably dominoes or Uno. Any game with Playmates is fun."

For all the 84-year-old Mr Hefner's nonchalance, it was becoming clear yesterday that his offer for the company will not be a straightforward affair. FriendFinder Networks, the internet company which owns Penthouse, might have been having trouble quickly pulling together a formal counter-bid, but a lawsuit from disgruntled investors was enough to muddy the waters.

The Shareholders Foundation, an investor advocacy group, said it had launched a class action suit in a Delaware court, claiming that the Playboy Enterprises board was preparing to sell the company to Mr Hefner on the cheap.

On Monday, the founder offered $5.50 a share for the roughly two-thirds of Playboy that he doesn't already own. He said he had teamed up with a Michigan private equity firm, Rizvi Traverse Management, which would help fund the $122.5m he needed to find to buy the shares.

Mr Hefner is not on the board, but he remains editor-in-chief of the magazine and chief creative officer of the company and, most importantly, although he does not hold a majority economic interest in Playboy he controls a majority of its voting shares and can therefore block any alternative deal – something he has vowed to do.

Playboy was launched in 1953 with Marilyn Monroe on the cover, and last month Mr Hefner celebrated the 50th anniversary of the nightclub chain bearing the Playboy name, staffed by bunny girls mimicking the logo of the magazine. The company has also expanded into television and, latterly, internet entertainment, but has suffered because of competition from the vast quantities of cheap or free pornography available on the internet. Over the past two years it has lost more than $200m, despite slashing staff and cutting the number of issues of the flagship magazine. Its turnaround rests on licensing the brand for new uses, but efforts have been slow to produce results.

The Playboy board has given no recommendation on the founder's offer, and said it would set up an independent committee to examine a formal proposal when it is actually tabled, but the Shareholders Foundation suit represents a shot across its bows. It accuses members of breaching their fiduciary duty to Playboy's other shareholders. "The plaintiff alleges that the 'Going Private' plan is the product of a flawed process designed to sell Playboy Enterprises to Hefner and Rizvi Traverse on terms detrimental to stockholders," the organisation said.

It pointed out that Playboy shares had been trading at $8.60 as recently as 2008, and were $15 four years ago.

Defending his position, Mr Hefner has released the text of his letter to the board, which had been kept under wraps when the offer was announced. In the letter, he writes: "I believe the proposal will also reinvigorate the company I founded and create a lasting legacy for the Playboy brand, a brand we have all worked hard to establish as one of the most widely recognised and popular brands in the world."

Marc Bell, the chief executive of FriendFinder, last night vowed that he would have a formal offer ready to present today, after twice delaying the announcement and blaming lawyers. He said he expected no difficulty financing a deal. As well as Penthouse, FriendFinder runs a network of more or less hardcore adult sites.

Playboy shares, which on Monday had soared above Mr Hefner's offer price, were yesterday back below as expectations of a serious bidding war subsided. Some investors were selling without even waiting for Mr Hefner and Rizvi to table their bid. One pundit advised investors to "take the bunny and run".

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, Linux, Shell, Bash)

£50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, L...

Data Scientist (SQL, PHP, RSPSS, CPLEX, SARS, AI) - London

£60000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A prestigious leading professiona...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution