Playboy Enterprises Inc. is considering ending the publication of the print magazine. The magazine was started more than six decades ago by Hugh Hefner, who died in September 2017.
Hefner’s death has triggered a process that will shift ownership of the company from his family to the largest shareholder, private equity firm Rizvi Traverse, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
Ben Kohn, a managing partner at Rizvi who is Playboy Enterprises’ chief executive, wants to shift the company’s emphasis to brand partnerships and licensing deals.
He says that the company wants to focus on what he calls the ‘World of Playboy’ which is so much larger than a small, legacy print publication. The plan in 2018 is transition from a media business to a brand-management company.
That shift involves seriously considering ending the print magazine, which began in 1953. U.S. circulation has dropped to less than 500,000 an issue from a peak of 5.6 million in 1975 amid struggles in the broader print magazine industry.
The Journal said Playboy’s print magazine, which now publishes six issues a year, has lost as much as US$7 million annually in recent years.
Perhaps most telling about the decline of the adult magazine is its slow disappearance from newspaper stands. Playboy’s biggest foes now are digital-news outlets like the $2.5 billion juggernaut Vice Media, which could be eating Playboy’s lunch at the moment with an entire vertical dedicated to the genre that made Playboy famous.