Christie Hefner to Step Down as Playboy CEO

CHICAGO - Christie Hefner has decided to step down from her position as Playboy's chairman and CEO next month after 20 years at the helm of the adult-entertainment giant.

According to a company announcement issued this morning, Hefner plans to remain as CEO until Jan. 31 and will keep her seat on the board until a replacement is found. The company has appointed Jerome Kern as an interim non-executive chairman.

Faced with ailing magazine circulation and falling stock, Playboy announced a restructuring plan earlier this year designed to save $12 million in annual operating costs. The cutbacks included slashing 80 jobs from the payroll and phasing out the company's DVD business to focus on licensing and Internet ventures.

Hefner gave no specific reasons for her departure. She said only that "just as this country is embracing change in the form of new leadership, I have decided that now is the time to make changes in my own life as well." 

Conde-Nast speculated that Hefner's comments in an interview with CNBC hinted at a career in Washington. 

"Like many Americans, I've been struck by the call to service that was the hallmark of the campaign, and I was an early supporter of Senator Obama, now President-Elect Obama, and I believe deeply in what he wants to do for our country," she told CNBC's Larry Kudlow and Erin Burnett. "I'll be looking for ways in which I can serve to be helpful in that regard."

But in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Hefner said she would remain in the WIndy City.

"[Husband] Billy and I don't want to leave Chicago, so this is going to be home," she said. "Whatever I do is going to be done from here. I think it's going to be a mix. I think I'm going to find ways to give back both in the nonprofit side and public service. But I also have enjoyed the board work, the TV commentary and the speaking that I've done. I really don't plan to look for a CEO job. Been there, done that."

Hefner denied that her exit was related to the company's financial hardships. "Quite the opposite," she said. "I wouldn't be able to step down if the company weren't in such strong shape."

Full story:MarketWatch.