A hunt has begun to capture the Playboy bunny.
The elderly porn magnate Hugh Hefner made an offer to buy back the adult entertainment empire he founded, only to face a competing proposal from the publisher of rival top-shelf magazine Penthouse.
Hefner, a legendary figure in pornography, said he was teaming up with a private equity firm, Rizvi Traverse, to bid $5.50 per share for Chicago-based Playboy Enterprises, which has grown from its origins as a publisher into television, websites and product licensing of its famous “bunny” brand.
Hours after the disclosure of Hefner’s intention, Playboy became the target of a rival suitor as FriendFinder Networks, which publishes Penthouse, said it was planning an “alternative proposal”, raising the prospect of a competitive takeover battle.
FriendFinder’s chief executive, Marc Bell, said his firm had been interested in Playboy for a long time and was likely to make a move within days.
Founded by Hefner in 1953, the Playboy group went public a decade ago. But Hefner still owns 70 per cent of the company’s A shares and 28 per cent of its B stock, giving him a large degree of control. His offer values the organisation at $185m, despite its loss of $51m last year.
In a statement, Playboy said it would form a special committee of independent directors to assess Hefner’s proposal.