New CEO says Playboy not for sale, but doubts remain

Hugh Hefner has got one of the world's best jobs. Scott Flanders, who will become the newest CEO of Playboy Enterprises (PLA), has among the worst.

The 52-year-old, who was the head of closely held publisher Freedom Communications, takes the mantle of Hefner's empire at a critical time. Playboy is hurting, having lost $13.7 million in the first quarter as the company's flagship magazine floundered.

Playboy magazine, which Hefner founded more than 50 years ago, is not as cool as it used to be. Sure, the brand still has a certain cache among young men. Hefner also has reinvented himself as a girl-chasing geezer thanks to programs such as The Girl Next Door and the Beverly Hills video by Weezer. But Hefner has found it far more difficult to get young men to actually subscribe to his magazine and website then to get young women to appear in it nude.

Wall Street knows the woes of Chicago-based Playboy well. Shares of Playboy rallied briefly after Flanders was appointed. The Wall Street Journal noted that those hopes have been dashed. Further complicating matters is the growing controversy in the blogosphere about a Playboy article on having "hate" sex with conservative women.

"In an interview, Mr. Flanders, 52 years old, said that while public companies have a responsibility to evaluate any proposals, he will be focused chiefly on building shareholder value by tapping the potential of the iconic bunny-head brand," the Journal said.

This sounds like a CEO who is preparing a company for sale. The conventional wisdom has been that Playboy would never be sold while Hefner, 83, is alive, which could make for a very long and awkward audition. But the world has changed.

Adult content is both plentiful and free on the internet. Advertising is falling and the tastes of young men have changed. Navigating Playboy through these treacherous waters is a challenge that would even tax the most seasoned of executives.

Flanders is getting paid a salary of $875,000, the same salary that Hefner's daughter Christie received before stepping down as CEO. He will earn every penny.
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