Corrected: Playboy Sale Moving Along; Iconix Still Front Runner; Buyers for TV/Online Lining Up

Playboy Eyes

Before I drop off as my jetlag digs deeper in India, some new details I have gathered on Playboy’s sale process, some of which will be borne out, some won’t: the sale to Iconix Brand Group, the London-based owner of London Fog, Joe Boxer, Ecko Unltd and others, is apparently moving faster than expected, our sources says, but is hinged on it getting a buyer for the online and TV assets, the remaining part of Playboy’s media business after it announced outsourcing its print ops to American Media last week. Among the names floated for buying TV/online are the Cisneros Group, the South American media giant with which PLA already has international TV deals, and interestingly Penthouse owner Friendfinder Group. Bit of an irony on Friendfinder: Playboy (NYSE: PLA) looked at buying Various Inc, the parent of AdultFriendfinder, two years ago, before Penthouse bought it for $500 million, changed the company name to Friendfinder, and filed for its IPO late last year. Unclear if Friendfinder would just want the online, its area of expertise, and then TV could logically be offloaded to Cisneros. If they all agree, and with print being outsourced to AMI, the final structure looks to be hellishly complicated.

UBS is banker from Playboy’s side of the deal. [Correction: UBS tells us it is not advising Playboy.] On the numbers, it could be as high as $7.5 or $8 a share, and Iconix thinks it could justify the price if it could find a buyer for the Playboy Mansion in the $35-$50 million range (and then perhaps leased back to Hugh Hefner for him to ride it out there however long he can), along with buyer for TV/online. Some of the other names that have cropped up to buy the media assets, though no clear if they have/had a bid in: Bang Brothers (don’t Google (NSDQ: GOOG) that, NSFW), and Warren Lichtenstein, the CEO of hedge fund Steel Partners, who is currently involved in a fight on his fund with Carl Icahn. Lichtenstein has indicated in the past he wanted to enter adult business, and few years ago proposed buying out New Frontier Media, a distributor of erotic films via cable and satellite; one of his funds holds a stake in the company. Unclear: if he wanted to buy out the whole company, or just the media assets.

For our continued coverage of the Playboy deal, check out the dedicated section.

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