Playboy magazine could soon be pulled from newsstands as uncertainty around the future of the iconic American men’s lifestyle publication grows.
Playboy Enterprises Inc. is said to be thinking about dropping the print magazine which was started more than six decades ago by the late Hugh Hefner - the millionaire mogul who died in September.
The magazine, which is not just famed for its risque photos of naked women but also its gamut of short stories, is believed to be moving its direction towards overall branding rather than print media.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Ben Kohn, a managing partner at Rizvi who is Playboy Enterprises’ chief executive, wants to move the firm’s emphasis to brand partnerships and licensing deals.
“We want to focus on what we call the ‘World of Playboy’ which is so much larger than a small, legacy print publication. We plan to spend 2018 transitioning it from a media business to a brand-management company,” Mr Kohn told the publication.
US circulation has plummeted to less than 500,000 an issue - a steep decline since its peak of 5.6 million in 1975 - a symptom of difficulties in an increasingly tough print magazine landscape.
Playboy’s print magazine, which now publishes six issues a year, has lost $7m annually in recent years, according to the Journal.
Mr Kohn said: “Historically, we could justify the losses because of the marketing value, but you also have to be forward thinking. I’m not sure that print is necessarily the best way to communicate to our consumer.”
Hefner’s death is said to have prompted a process that will move ownership of the company from his family to the largest shareholder Rizvi Traverse.
It was Rizvi Traverse which helped Hugh Hefner take Playboy private in 2011 and gained control of nearly two-thirds of the company.
Ritzi Traverse, a private equity firm, is said to be keen to centre efforts on the Playboy brand and its globally recognised bunny logo.
“We want to focus on what we call the ‘World of Playboy’ which is so much larger than a small, legacy print publication,” Mr Kohn said. “We plan to spend 2018 transitioning it from a media business to a brand-management company.”
According to the Journal who spoke to an unnamed person aware of what is going on, the private equity firm is now in discussions to gain the 35 per cent stake Hefner left in trust to his heirs. The source told them Playboy wants to raise $25 million to $100 million early this year to help buy back the shares and fund future partnership deals.
Playboy, one of the most famous brands in the world, is not only famed for its centrefolds of nude and semi-nude models but also published fiction and non-fiction from writers such as Ray Bradbury and Margaret Atwood during its peak.
It has published thousands of critical essays, interviews, short stories and features covering a plethora of subjects including religion, race issues, sex and sexuality.
Hefner himself once told a group of former playmates: “Without you, I’d be the publisher of a literary magazine.”
The magazine, which was founded in Chicago, stopped publishing nude images of women in 2016 but brought them back in 2017.
A final decision has yet to be made about the future of the print magazine but a potentially dark storm cloud is reported to be hanging over its future.
The Independent contacted a representative of Playboy for comment.
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