Playboy Shares Rise 75% Over 5 Days

Nov 16, 2009 2:00 PM PST
CHICAGO — While rumors swirl over Playboy’s future, its stock has catapulted.

Playboy Enterprises shares climbed to $4.78 Monday afternoon on the New York Stock Exchange at market close, a 75 percent hike in the past five days of trading and nearly five times its 52-week low of $1.03 a share.

In the past week several suitors have reportedly been in talks for the adult entertainment giant — former Playboy executive Jim Griffiths teaming with Golden Gate Capital and Iconix, which owns and licenses brands such as London Fog, Danskin, Candies, Joe Boxer and Rocawear.

But late Monday, Golden Gate Capital said in a statement that "it is not and will not be involved in any way with any potential acquisition of Playboy Enterprises."

Griffiths and Golden Gate Capital were jointly talking to Playboy Enterprises about buying the company for about $300 million.

Earlier this year, Virgin Media, Apollo Capital Partners and Providence Equity Partners also reportedly heard Playboy's sales pitch.

On Friday, RBC Capital Markets noted that any deal for Playboy will be one that involves some form of partnership.

"Given that the real long-term value creation opportunity for Playboy is clearly on the licensing side, we think chatter regarding a partnership makes some sense," RBC analyst David Bank said.

RBC, in its note, said that because Playboy founder Hugh Hefner owns about 70 percent of the stock, he would have to give the green light to any acquisition.

RBC said chances of a deal are slim as Hefner likely will want to see what the Playboy’s new management has planned. The company recently hired a CEO Scott Flanders.

“We think the wildcard here is Hugh Hefner," Bank said. "He could be ready to liquidate his holdings, detach from Playboy and his associated lifestyle."

Bill Asher, who co-owns Vivid Entertainment, concurs.

Asher told the Chicago Tribune on Monday that he has bought more than 1 million Playboy shares in the past year.

"I think there's a good chance Hefner is going to sell if he gets the right price," said Asher, who noted that "the real money is selling Playboy socks in China."

"It would take very little to make it the hottest brand in the world, as it was 30 years ago," he said.

Meanwhile, in separate company news Monday, Playboy announced Linda G. Havard's decision to step down as executive vice president and chief financial officer effective Dec 31.

"She has done an exceptional job over the past 12 years in managing the company's financial, treasury, accounting and technology functions,” Flanders said.

Havard joined Playboy in 1997 from ARCO, where she served as vice president of corporate planning.

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