FriendFinder Sets Playboy Bid at $210M

BOCA RATON, Fla. — FriendFinder Networks Inc. said Thursday it is planning to buy Playboy Enterprises Inc. for $210 million.

The company has retained Imperial Capital LLC as financial advisor in connection with its proposal to acquire Playboy.

FriendFinder's bid for Playboy comes days after Hugh Hefner revealed a $5.50-a-share offer to take the company he founded private. Hefner owns about 70 percent of Playboy’s Class A shares and 28 percent of its Class B stock.

FriendFinder Marc Bell, who made today's announcement on CNBC in an interview, said Hefner’s bid “dramatically” undervalues Playboy. FriendFinder's bid represents a $25 million premium over Hefner's offer.

"We’re buying a brand that has a global reach and has a very small online presence, and we’re experts at building our online communities," Bell told CNBC. "So our goal is to take that Playboy community and really expand it globally online.”

FriendFinder has asked to meet with Playboy's board on July 21.

"We would propose an arrangement where we would partner with Mr. Hefner in our efforts to drive shareholder value," Bell said in a statement to Playboy's board. "We envision that following the completion of the proposed transaction, Mr. Hefner would retain editorial control of Playboy Magazine and would be entitled to reside in the Playboy Mansion.

"We would expect continuity of senior management through completion of the transactions contemplated by this proposal, and we are open to participation by continuing members of senior management on a going forward basis.

"We believe that together we can create a 21st century media powerhouse and generate tremendous synergies through the combination of Playboy’s iconic brands and licensing engine with the Penthouse brands and the demonstrated technological innovations of FriendFinder Networks."

Imperial Capital, founded in 1997 and led by co-founder Jason Reese, is an investment banking firm with offices in Century City, Calif., New York, San Francisco, Boston, Houston and Minneapolis.

Hefner’s proposed deal to buy all the outstanding shares he doesn’t already own would be financed by Rizvi Traverse Management LLC.