Guccione Saved by The Bell

Gretchen Gallen
NEW YORK – After several months of uncertainty over the fate of one of America's landmark porn magazines, Penthouse has fallen into the hands of one of its principal stockholders, Dr. Luis Enrique Molina.

Molina, a Mexican soft drink entrepreneur, has reportedly put up more than $70 million to pay Penthouse publisher and owner Bob Guccione's debts and the liens on his Eastside mansion. Molina has stated that he intends to expand on the Penthouse brand by opening up a series of adult clubs, similar to Larry Flynt's recent foray into adult entertainment super clubs.

Molina is also behind the purchase of third party billing processor iBill for $34 million last week.

"Guccione will continue to stay on board with General Media," Tom Biggs of Penthouse Investor Relations told XBiz. "Bob will continue to hold a function with the content and the overseeing of the magazine." Biggs was unable to offer anymore specifics on how involved Guccione will be in Molina's reversioning of the Penthouse name brand.

Penthouse International is the umbrella company for several business units including Penthouse magazine; Penthouse's publishing and distribution arm, General Media; and an Internet transaction processing unit.

General Media filed for bankruptcy in August of 2003, although Penthouse International was not involved in the petition.

According to a statement released by General Media, Molina has agreed to acquire 75 percent of the outstanding Class A preferred stock of General Media. The purchase will be concluded by April 15.

Molina and Penthouse have agreed to purchase General Media preferred stock from the sellers for approximately $10.25 million, payable on March 31, 2008 under an 8 percent increasing rate note given by Molina and guaranteed by Penthouse.

Prior to Molina stepping in, the Penthouse empire was almost taken over by a group of investors who were planning to oust Guccionne from the helm of Penthouse and change the course the Penthouse brand name.

Under the terms of the deal, which was hammered out at the midnight hour, Guccione will pay $1 per year to continue living in his Manhattan mansion. He will also collect a salary of $1 million to serve as editor and overseer of Penthouse magazine.