Summary:

Update: Wall Street is cheering this news in a big way: the stock has been up around 17 percent in mid-day trading.

Christie Hefner, CEO of…

imageUpdate: Wall Street is cheering this news in a big way: the stock has been up around 17 percent in mid-day trading.

Christie Hefner, CEO of Playboy Enterprises (NYSE: PLA) for the last two decades, is leaving the family business, stepping down as chairman today and as CEO Jan. 31, 2009. It looks like a complete break: she will leave the board when a new CEO is found. Effective immediately, board member Jerome Kern becomes interim non-executive chairman of the board. Release

David adds: The announcement was made a day before Hefner, whose father Hugh founded the company in 1953 and remains chief creative officer, was to address investors at the UBS Global Media and Communications conference. In a statement, the elder Hefner said: “I asked Christie to step up as president when the company faced serious financial difficulties more than two decades ago. She has worked tirelessly to expand the company’s franchise, and, as a result of her efforts, the company today has more consumers and fans than at any time in our history. Of course, as her father, my first priority is Christie’s happiness. While I will miss her leadership here, I believe that she will go on to achieve even greater personal success.”

Even before the economy worsened considerably this fall, Playboy has been struggling financially for some time. It posted another net loss in Q3, with losses totaling $1.1 million ($0.04 per share) compared with last year

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