Media World: Hugh Hefner is looking for a sugar daddy

Hugh Hefner, America's favorite girl-chasing geezer, may sell the Playboy empire he built more than 50 years ago.

According to the New York Post, Playboy Enterprises Inc. (PLA) is being "quietly" shopped around to private equity firms for about $300 million. That's roughly three times the market capitalization of the Chicago-based company. No wonder the Post is reporting that Apollo Capital Partners and Providence Equity Partners, which have been approached, have yet to make an offer. Perhaps Hefner thinks the company is worth quite a bit more than the investment bankers do.

Hefner still has about a 70 percent ownership interest in Playboy. There are many reasons both emotional and financial that may make him reluctant to sell. After all, Hefner is synonymous with the brand in part because of the swinging lifestyle he leads at the company-owned Playboy Mansion. A new owner of Playboy may sell the Beverly Hills fantasy island to raise cash.

"Hefner, now 83 years old, said recently that one of his biggest regrets was taking Playboy public," the Post said.

It's easy to see why.

Shares of Playboy, which have run up a bit lately along with the rest of the market, have plunged nearly 80 percent over the past five years amid declining revenue at the company's flagship magazine. Some investors are taking an interest in the stock, betting that the company would get sold once Hefner joins the great pajama party in the sky.

Playboy retains a tiny vestige of what made it cool. Young male celebrities still will give their firstborn for an invitation to one of Hefner's famous parties. But that doesn't do shareholders much good amid the explosion of free adult content online.

For the quarter ended March 31, the Chicago reported a net loss of $13.7 million, or 41 cents a share, up from $4.2 million. This compares to a net loss in the same period last year of $4.2 million, or 13 cents per share. Revenue declined to $61.6 million from $78.5 million a year before.

Selling Playboy may prove more difficult for Hefner than convincing women young enough to be his great-grandaughters that he is good boyfriend material.

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