Playboy Hires Advisors But Likely Stays With Hefner

Is Playboy still in play? Naw.

News that Playboy Enterprises had hired a pair of advisors has some wondering if the magazine publisher might actually be sold. Yesterday, Playboy’s special board committee said it had retained Raine Securities and Kaye Scholer as financial and legal advisors.

Lest anyone has forgotten, a few months ago there was an apparent bidding war for Playboy. In July, Hugh Hefner, the perennial playboy who founded the magazine, made a $5.50 a share offer for all the stock of the company he doesn’t own. FriendFinder Networks Inc., owner of rival skin mag Penthouse, then swooped in with a $6.25 a share offer for Playboy.

Everything has been pretty quiet since then. Playboy said Tuesday that no decision has been made regarding Hefner’s bid. It’s also not clear whether the $210 million offer from Marc Bell, FriendFinder’s CEO, is still in play.

Some are speculating that the Raine hiring means Playboy may be looking to finally sell. Or, that Bell may finally get his hands on the magazine. But one banker says the hiring only means Playboy needs a third party to validate whatever strategy it takes. “It will probably be to NOT accept a deal from outsiders but only recommend the Hefner deal,” the source says.

Raine will probably review all outside options and come up with a rationale for rejecting those bids. “Just as Hef wants,” the source says.

Bell couldn’t be reached for comment.