NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Christie Hefner is leaving her post as chairman-CEO at Playboy Enterprises on Jan. 31, more than 20 years after taking over the top job from her father, Hugh.
It wasn't clear what prompted her departure now, though Ms. Hefner seemed to signal an interest in the Obama administration. "Just as this country is embracing change in the form of new leadership," she said in the company announcement, "I have decided that now is the time to make changes in my own life as well."
But the company is also suffering difficulties now that aren't necessarily all products of recession. Declines across every division turned its first quarter of the year unprofitable. "Our publishing and domestic entertainment businesses continue to face unprecedented change in the way consumers access and use media content," Ms. Hefner said then. Losses followed in the second and third quarters, along with budget cuts and layoffs.
During her tenure, Ms. Hefner succeeded in transforming Playboy Enterprises from the publisher of a single U.S. magazine into an international entertainment company with operations in TV, digital media and licensing. The brand remains incredibly well-known.
Circ down 6.2%
The magazine's U.S. edition averaged paid and verified circulation of 2.7 million copies in the first half of this year, down 6.2% from the first half of 2007, according to statements filed with the Audit Bureau of Circulations. In a terrible year for magazine-ad-page sales -- monthlies as a whole sank 9.4% -- Playboy did better than some, only losing 5.7%, according to the Media Industry Newsletter. But Playboy's cultural influence has never matched its heyday under her father.
Ms. Hefner was named president of the company in 1982, added the chief operating officer title two years later and became chairman-CEO in 1988. "I never expected to go into the family business, much less to stay here this long," she said today, "but I have enjoyed the challenges and opportunities the past decades have presented."
She will stay on as CEO until Jan 31, 2009 and will remain a member of the board until a new CEO joins the company. The board will begin looking for a replacement immediately, and Jerome Kern, a long-time director of the company, will serve as interim nonexecutive chairman.