Playboy’s support for reproductive rights ‘is not going to change,’ CEO says

It is a source of pride for the CEO of Playboy’s parent company, PLBY Group Inc., to recall the role the company played in defending and funding the fight for abortion rights in the United States, and the letter that received from a Ruth Bader Ginsburg in August 1973..

“Our position has not changed; We still believe in women’s right to choose, “Ben Kohn, CEO of Playboy, told MarketWatch in an interview. of the years on the subject, Kohn said.

Ginsburg, a lawyer for the founding ACLU Women’s Rights Project, wrote in the magazine to promote the cause of equality and recognized the Playboy Foundation for its generous financial support. historical decision Roe v. Wade in January of the same year.

Playboy had long advocated for reproductive rights and safe abortions for women during the 1960s, when many died of illegal abortions.

In a January 1964 issue, for example, the late founder of Playboy, Hugh Hefner, wrote: “Abortion is still illegal in every state in the Union, even though it is subject to hundreds of thousands of women every year, in circumstances that seriously endanger not only their health and well-being, but their lives. ”

The letters section in the magazine’s Playboy Forum editor later became a center of protest against what he called “ancient abortion statutes” and included many women’s contributions, despite the majority of readers. magazine men.

However, Kohn warned that the recent leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion showing a majority of judges in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade was not a definite opinion.

“We have to be patient and see what the sentence is,” he said. “But we have supported women’s rights for 69 years, and that will not change.”

Kohn, a former private equity executive at Rizvi Traverse, has been CEO of Playboy PLBY.
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since 2017, and returned it to public procurement in 2020 through a merger with a special purpose acquisition corporation, or SPAC.

The company had been private since 2011, when Hefner designed an agreement that was funded in part by Rizvi Traverse. This was after a collapse in magazine advertising revenue around the 2008 financial crisis and changes in the publishing business that made much of adult material available for free online to push. the business.

I’ll see: The artist who drew the iconic Playboy bunny remembers Hef

Playboy is a very different company today than it was during the heyday of the 60’s and 70’s, and has closed most of its legacy media businesses. The company began as a magazine published in Hefner’s Chicago apartment before growing to include a global licensing and television networking business.

Read now: This is how Hugh Hefner’s Playboy makes his money

The licensing business has continued to be a key part of the business, especially in China, where its iconic bunny logo in profile appears on a myriad of products.

The company now operates in four categories: sexual welfare; style and clothing; games and lifestyle; and beauty and care. Kohn is working on two priorities: expanding the company’s direct business to the consumer by integrating various consumer products it has purchased and creating CenterFold, a new platform designed to be a digital home for creators and influencers to interact with fans and create their own. own personal content business based on subscriptions.

“We want to capture more of the ecosystem and harness the power of the brand,” he said.

Playboy is estimated to have 97% brand awareness without help which gives it a range of over $ 3 billion in overall consumer spending. The only similar brand is Disney DIS,
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said Kohn. “It would take billions of dollars and multiples of our market capitalization to replicate that,” he said.

Of course, PLBY Group is not currently capturing all that $ 3 billion in spending. The company’s latest first-quarter earnings showed net income of $ 5.5 million, or 12 cents per share, a change from a loss of $ 4.9 million, or 17 cents per share, a year.

Revenue reached $ 69.4 million, up from $ 42.7 million a year ago, with a 63% growth rate. The FactSet consensus saw a loss of 6 cents per share and $ 68.5 million in revenue, and the shares recovered.

“There’s a massive dislocation between consumer revenue and spending,” Kohn said. “We’re basically a 69-year-old startup.”

Plans for CenterFold have been working for months and the platform is expected to act as a “funnel top” for other products and services. Rapper Cardi B, the platform’s first resident creative director and founding creative director, hosted a party after the recent Met Gala.

The party was broadcast live and Cardi B offered subscribers access to behind-the-scenes content for a fee. Playboy equipped dancers at the event with bunny costumes, and between posting on social media and press coverage it reached more than 2 billion consumers in a week, Kohn said.

Since then, Playboy has hired model and entrepreneur Amber Rose as a founding creator and signed 40 more to promote its merchandise on its social channels, including the underwear brand Honey Birdette, which it acquired in 2021, and Yandy, another lingerie brand acquired in 2019.

Playboy has also entered the non-consumable token market, or NFT, the blockchain-driven digital art market. Although the NFT market appears to have slowed, for now, Kohn is confident that the company can still find ways to monetize its files, which include original artwork, photography, cartoons, interviews, and multimedia.

See now: Playboy enters the NFT market with plans to create digital art from its photography

A Plan is a series of podcasts on the Audible platform, in which actors will do famous interviews with celebrities from the magazine’s past. “The Playboy Interviews” includes Taye Diggs starring Muhammad Ali and civil rights icon Charles Evers; Michael Shannon giving voice to Tennessee Williams; Maya Hawke with Helen Gurley Brown; Gael García Bernal as Salvador Dalí; Kevin Corrigan as Frank Sinatra and Gina Gershon giving voice to Oriana Fallaci, among others.

Another big change for Playboy is that its customer base is now much younger and evenly split between men and women. Approximately 78% of its consumers are Gen Z and millennials.

Kohn says he chose to leave the world of private capital to take on an operational role “because it was the biggest opportunity of my career.”

“He wouldn’t have done it with Hefner alive, because he couldn’t evolve,” he said. “But with his death, the question became, ‘What’s the value of Playboy?’ And then move on. ”

Chardan Global Insights, which values ​​the shares as a purchase, agrees that there is “substantial value” in the company.

“With a market capitalization of approximately $ 350 million, PLBY remains compelling,” said analyst Brian Dobson, citing the brand, Honey Birdette, CenterFold and the media and art portfolio as strong assets.

“We continue to project an annual compound growth rate of revenue of approximately 25% through 2025, with the operating margin widening to around 16%,” Dobson wrote in a note to clients last week.

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