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Can Hefner save Playboy?
Playboy founder Hugh Hefner reportedly wants to buy back the shares of his company he sold decades ago. Should stockholders be interested?
Hugh Hefner, with girlfriend Holly Madison: Pleasure over business?
Hugh Hefner, with girlfriend Holly Madison: Pleasure over business?
(Kenneth Johansson/Corbis)
H

ugh Hefner is offering to buy up all the shares of Playboy Enterprises, the now-struggling publishing empire he founded more than 50 years ago and took public in the 1970s. But he faces competition: FriendFinder Networks, owner of rival Penthouse magazine, plans to make a competing offer. Is Hefner, 84, the best bet for Playboy's long-suffering shareholders — or is it finally time for the aging lothario to hang up his slippers? (Watch a Bloomberg report about Playboy's prospects)

The company has always been Hef's baby: Playboy has always "operated more like a private company than a public one," say the editors of the Chicago Tribune. Hefner controls most of the voting shares, after all, and has used his sway to make sure his lavish lifestyle and cherished magazine get funded even against the interests of shareholders. Now he wants to buy Playboy back and hand it off to his two young sons. Interestingly enough, that may be the best option for everyone.
"Hef's last chance"

Hefner's tired shtick is part of the problem: The famous Playboy bunny symbol used to mean something, says Cynthia Dermody at Cafe Mom's The Stir. When you saw the logo on a man's shirt, or dangling on a necklace, or stickered on his pick-up, it said, "watch out, ladies. This dude is a rebel, a rule-breaker, a sexual dynamo." Now it just means he's a laughing stock who buys "really tacky" products. Sorry, Hef, Playboy's heyday isn't coming back.
"Hugh Hefner wants his Playboy bunny back"

This move makes no sense: Maybe Hefner doesn't like it that outside managers who are now calling the day-to-day shots at the company he founded, says The New York Times' Dealbook blog. But it's foolish to tune them out — Scott Flanders, "an outsider to Playboy’s tradition-bound culture" who replaced Hefner's daughter, Christie, as CEO last year, has recently started turning the company around. Changing course now is dangerous.
"Guessing at Hefner's Playboy bid"

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