Playboy could end its print magazine

Hefner's death moves ownership to a private equity company

Zuma Press/TNS Hugh Hefner signs copies of a Playboy publication in 2007.

LOS ANGELES — Newsstands soon could be stripped of one of the nation’s most iconic publications — Playboy magazine.

Playboy Enterprises Inc. reportedly is considering killing the print magazine, which was started more than six decades ago by Hugh Hefner, who died in September.

Famous for images of naked women and its fiction articles, the magazine launched Hefner’s Beverly Hills-based publishing and entertainment empire. But Hefner’s death has triggered a process that will shift ownership of the company from his family to the largest shareholder, private equity company Rizvi Traverse, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

Ben Kohn, a managing partner at Rizvi who is Playboy Enterprises’s chief executive, wants to shift the company’s emphasis to brand partnerships and licensing deals.

“We want to focus on what we call the ‘World of Playboy’ which is so much larger than a small, legacy print publication,” Kohn told the Journal. “We plan to spend 2018 transitioning it from a media business to a brand-management company.”

That shift involves seriously considering ending the print magazine, which began in 1953. U.S. circulation has dropped to fewer than 500,000 copies an issue, from a peak of 5.6 million in 1975, amid struggles in the broader print magazine industry.

The Journal said Playboy’s print magazine, which now publishes six issues a year, has lost as much as $7 million annually in recent years.

A spokesman for Playboy Enterprises declined to comment Tuesday.