'Penthouse' Hints at Alternative Proposal to Buy Playboy

NEW YORK—Is a feeding frenzy for powerful but ailing Playboy Enterprises about to erupt? On the heels of Hugh Hefner's announcement that he wants to buy up all Playboy shares and take the company private, FriendFinder Networks CEO Marc Bell has said he will be announcing an alternative offer within days. FriendFinder is the parent company of Penthouse magazine.

Hefner made his announcement today in a letter to the Playboy board of directors that he wants to take the company private in a deal worth an estimated $185 million.

“Hefner has offered to buy all shares he doesn't currently own for $5.50 per share in cash, a premium of about 40 percent to its closing price of $3.94 on Friday,” Reuters reported today. Hefner has reportedly partnered with private-equity company Rizvi Traverse Management LLC in his bid to regain control of his iconic company, whose profits now come mostly from licensing deals.

“Hefner said in a statement he is concerned about the Playboy brand and the namesake magazine's editorial direction,” reported the Wall Street Journal.

AVN contacted Penthouse CEO Marc Bell for comment, and the chief executive called back immediately to say that he will shortly announce his own bid to obtain the world-famous lifestyle company that Hefner founded in 1953.

“We’ve been commenting on it,” Bell told AVN, “and we are exploring an alternative proposal.”

When pressed on the timeframe for this counter-offer, Bell said it would be made within “days. We’re telling people that it’s coming.”

According to news reports, however, Hefner still appears to be staunchly opposed to either an outright sale of Playboy or a partnership with other bidders.

“In his letter to Playboy's board of directors, Hefner said he has no plans to sell his shares—or the company. He rebuffed any suggestion that there should be a merger between Playboy and other potential bidders,” the AP reported. “Playboy, which is headquartered in Chicago, described Hefner's offer letter as a proposal and said there was no guarantee it would get any formal bid from Hefner. But if it does, the board of directors will form a special committee to consider the bid.”

AVN also has calls into Playboy and Hustler, seeking comment on this developing story.