Playboy Lays Off Digital Staffers, Including CCO (Exclusive)

Company also cancels annual Comic-Con party in San Diego

Last Updated: July 20, 2016 @ 2:04 PM

Layoffs hit Playboy’s Los Angeles office on Wednesday, TheWrap has learned.

Cuts were limited to the company’s digital division, an individual with knowledge of the situation said. Chief Content Officer Cory Jones was among those let go.

His role will be assumed by current Editorial Director Jason Buhrmester, a second individual told TheWrap. The decision was made to “reset” the workflow between digital and print editorial departments, the insider added.

Buhrmester will report to newly appointed Chief Marketing Officer Jared Dougherty, promoted from the Playboy licensing division, according to an internal memo to staffers from interim CEO Ben Kohn that was obtained by TheWrap (read the full memo bel0w).

Kohn is a partner in Rizvi Traverse, the equity firm which assumed Hugh Hefner‘s majority stake in the company in 2011. In his memo, Kohn said the staff reduction would ultimately help Playboy resonate with a younger, savvier audience — an initiative kicked off when Playboy stopped running nude photos last year.

“I believe that with these changes we will be able to ensure that Playboy has a clear brand voice that resonates with the millennial audience,” Kohn wrote.

TheWrap also confirmed with a knowledgable source that Playboy will not hold its splashy annual Comic-Con party in San Diego, which would have been scheduled for this week.

While one source insisted the cuts were not cost-saving measures, it was widely reported in March that investment bank Moelis & Co was brought on to explore a sale of the brand. The month prior, the Playboy board made waves with the very public dumping of Hugh Hefner‘s son Cooper from its membership.

The senior Hefner is said to own a one-third stake in the company. Playboy declined to comment on the matter. Read Kohn’s full memo:

Hello Team,

The work that has been done over the past two years to transform Playboy into a modern global media company and lifestyle brand has been truly phenomenal. Each of you has played an important role in this transformation and I want to thank you for your contributions.

However, we still have a long way to go and in order to position ourselves for the future it has been necessary to consolidate our content strategy in a way that gives us a tighter, flatter structure, one without silos. I believe that with these changes we will be able to ensure that Playboy has a clear brand voice that resonates with the millennial audience.

Any decision that impacts people is always the most difficult to make, but that is outweighed by the need to create a structure that ensures Playboy’s ability to thrive in the future. To that end, we have undertaken a number of layoffs this week. All of those employees affected have been notified. I want to emphasize that these layoffs were not based on any individual’s performance and we are all grateful to their contributions to the legacy of Playboy.

I wanted to update you on a number of organizational changes we have made effective immediately that I believe will enable Playboy to proceed with a brand voice that is unified across all of our platforms: Licensing, Experiences, Digital, Print and e-Commerce.

Organizational Update

Jared Dougherty, who many of you know from his first term at Playboy (2008 to 2013) has agreed to expand his role from the oversight of our licensing division to add Playboy media to his portfolio, taking on the title of Chief Marketing Officer at the company.

Cory Jones, who has done a brilliant job of launching Playboy.com and leading the editorial team with the revolutionary changes to our magazine, is leaving the company to pursue a new venture. I want to thank him for his incredible service to Playboy over these past three years. Jason Burhmester, who will continue as Editorial Director of the magazine, will now take on the added responsibility of Head of Content, leading a combined Playboy.com/Playboy magazine staff. Jason will report to Jared, working with him to ensure that our content supports our global licensing business as well as our media platforms.

I am also happy to announce that Cooper Hefner has agreed to return to Playboy Enterprises. As you may know, in addition to being Editor in Chief of Playboy magazine, our Founder, Hugh Hefner, also holds the title of Chief Creative Officer. Cooper Hefner will be assuming this title going forward, focusing on the creative strategy around our continuing transformation into a millennial facing lifestyle brand and the reinvention of our experiences for that audience. Cooper will report to Jared.

I strongly believe that this new structure will ensure that our most powerful revenue driver, Licensing, and the public expression of Playboy, our Media and Experiences Divisions, will work together in a way that creates opportunities for both areas that have not been possible before.

Phillip Morelock, will continue in his role as Chief Digital Officer and has also agreed to lead our media sales function, taking on the added duties of Chief Revenue Officer at the company. Phillip will report to me.

Although this new team is smaller, I believe it sets us up for success. That is, if each of us gives our individual responsibilities maximum effort and if we all work closely together to realize a brand new Playboy for a new generation. Thank you for being a part of it.

I know this is all a lot to digest. I am available to discuss any questions you may have. I believe in our mission here at Playboy as strongly as I did on day one of my involvement with the company. The senior executive team and I will be looking to you to bring your continued dedication, passion and creativity to your role at the company. I firmly believe that Playboy has a bright future and I hope you are as excited about it as I am.

Sincerely, 

Ben