Playboy Said to Explore Sale in Latest Sign of Print Struggles

Stopped Showing Nudity in March

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Playboy Enterprises is exploring a sale, according to a person familiar with the matter, as the publisher of the iconic men's magazine tries to transform itself into a licensing company.

In October, Playboy announced that it would stop showing nudity starting with the March 2016 issue, reflecting how much the company's business had changed since pornography became available to anyone with an internet connection. In January, the company said it was selling the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles, the home of founder Hugh Hefner and venue for wild parties with celebrities and centerfolds, for $200 million.

Playboy, whose first issue came out when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president and featured Marilyn Monroe on its cover, has divested assets including its cable network and outsourced magazine printing to focus on licensing its brand. In 2011, the company started transforming itself into a brand-management company, licensing the rights to use the Playboy bunny logo on a variety of merchandise, from cologne to jewelry.

In 2009, Playboy Enterprises was in talks to sell itself to Iconix Brand Group, the owner of the Candie's and London Fog clothing brands, according to two people close to the situation at the time.

Playboy was taken private in a 2011 buyout led by Hefner but has struggled in recent years as readers desert print magazines. In 2014, the company refinanced $147 million of first-lien debt with a single lender after its financial performance deteriorated. That same year, Standard & Poor's said the publisher was "vulnerable" because of "sporadic operating shortfalls," competition in brand licensing and a worsening outlook for print media.

The news was earlier reported by the Wall Street Journal, which said the company could fetch more than $500 million, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter.

-- Bloomberg News

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