Playboy Sale Hopes To Iconix Fade; Too Complicated To Pull Off?

Update: From a source, no more immediate buyers are on the table for Playboy (NYSE: PLA) at this point. So back to the drawing table for Scott Flanders, the new-ish CEO. One of the main reasons for Iconix walking off: Hugh Hefner insisted on too much “continuity”, meaning he wanted to continue staying at the Playboy Mansion until his death, the source says. Also, Hefner wanted to get his licensing employees to be hired by Iconix, but the buyer wanted to work with its own team on it, another source of disagreement.

When I said “hellishly complicated” last time, it seems like it really was.

London-based Iconix Group, which was interested in buying/licensing Playboy brand from the parent company, is reportedly now breaking off talks after realizing the deal would have been too complicated, reports Bloomberg, citing sources. Separating the brand from the mag, TV and online assets, and possibly most importantly, from Hugh Hefner, may have proved too much to undo. Playboy already announced outsourcing its print ops to American Media last month, and has been looking for a buyer or partner on the TV and digital side. Among the names in the fray looking to take over the TV/digital side, as I reported before, including Cisneros Group, the South American media giant with which PLA already has international TV deals, and Penthouse owner Friendfinder Group.

Playboy apparently has an offsite board meeting going on this week, where they possibly might be deciding the next step forward from here. Will Hefner get out of the way enough to make this happen? Will the company now have to find a buyer that takes it all, though at a much lower valuation than the company hoped for? Or will Iconix come back under a different structure?

Meanwhile, Playboy’s own licensing efforts continue: it is tying up with Silver Moon Creations to produce a collection of jewelry under the Playboy brand; also, its licensed Playboy Energy Drink is now exanding into midwest, the licensee Play Beverages announced yesterday.