Penthouse Owner to Announce Bid for Playboy on Thursday

Hef: “Penthouse is just looking for publicity — they’re not in the picture”

Last Updated: July 15, 2010 @ 8:28 AM

Penthouse chief and FriendFinder Networks owner Marc Bell said on Wednesday that he will publicly announce his bid for Playboy Enterprises at 12:30 p.m. (ET) on Thursday.

On Monday, Bell told TheWrap he planned to make an offer to counter Playboy founder Hugh Hefner’s $5.50 per share proposal “in the next day or so.”

Bell would not say what, specifically, that offer would be.

Hefner quickly scoffed at Penthouse's play.

"Penthouse is just looking for publicity," Hef wrote on Twitter. "They're not in the picture."

"My interest in taking Playboy private is prompting some crazy rumors," he wrote in a series of tweets. "Playboy isn't in play. I'm buying, not selling. I'm concerned about our minority stock holders [and] the future of the magazine [and] the brand. I support my management team [and] think we're on the road to recovery. Going private should help."

On Monday, Hef sent a letter to the Playboy board offering to buy all of the common shares that he doesn’t already own – at $5.50 per share. (Hef already owns 69.5 percent of the company's Class A common stock and 27.7 percent of its Class B shares.) In making the bid, the 84-year-old icon said he has the backing of Rizvi Traverse Management, a little-known private equity firm.

Hefner's proposal values the beleaguered bunny brand at just $185 million.

Bell said that through FriendFinder – a business that generates more than $330 million annually — he would not need the help of a financial backer to buy the company. “We won’t have to worry about that,” he told TheWrap.

He did say he would not merge Playboy and Penthouse magazines, if his bid was successful.

“We’d keep them separate,” Bell said.