New Proposal Would Ax Guccione

Rhett Pardon
NEW YORK, NY -- The saga continues over Bob Guccione and the Penthouse empire.

Marc Bell, who leads an equity group seeking to take over the adult magazine, filed a plan in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York to fire the 73-year-old Guccione without compensation.

Bell, 36, plans to take the now-bankrupt Penthouse and relaunch it as a young men’s magazine such as Maxim, Stuff and FHM.

‘‘We want to realign the magazine and take it to the center,’’ Bell told the New York Post. “It’s got very hard-core and lost a lot of readership because of that.’’

Bell founded Internet firm Globix at age 21 and now invests in real estate. He also heads the Boca Raton, Fla., private equity firm Marc Bell Capital Partners, which has amassed 89 percent of the Penthouse’s approximately $45 million in bonds and plans to infuse nearly $50 million to turn around the publication.

His latest plan submitted to the court would pay nearly $80 million to creditors and holders of bonds and preferred securities.

The parties meet again next Friday to argue the reorganization plan. Bell originally welcomed Guccione into its plan and offered to pay him $500,000 a year.

Last month, a judge approved Bell’s plan to acquire New York-based General Media, which also owns several Penthouse-branded magazines and adult-entertainment businesses.

The empire includes subscription Internet sites, video and DVD production and distribution, and licensing of its brand on products such as gentlemen’s clubs.

Guccione, who founded Penthouse in 1965, owns almost all of General Media’s parent company, Penthouse International, which did not file for bankruptcy protection but no longer controls the magazine.

Circulation reached 5.2 million copies in heady days, but in recent years with competition from the Internet, as well as satellite and cable channels, the circulation has dipped to 460,000, where it is now. Playboy, in comparison has a circulation of 3.2 million.

Robert Feinstein on Thursday told the Post that Bell’s new plan is a “a last-gasp tactic” to harm a fully-funded reorganization. “We’ve requested he withdraw it,” he said.