After nearly six months of looking for a permanent replacement for Christie Hefner, Playboy Enterprises (NYSE: PLA) is set to formally offer the CEO post to Freedom Communications’ head Scott Flanders, WSJ reported, citing unidentified sources. The deal is not yet finalized and WSJ cautioned that it could fall apart.
Last week, Virgin Group’s Richard Branson’s name was bruited about as a possible buyer of Playboy, which has been reportedly looking for opening bids of $300 million. Branson quickly moved to dispel those rumors and said he had no interest in a acquiring the adult-themed media company.
If Flanders is brought on as CEO, aside from trying to engineer a turnaround — Q1 net loss was $13.7 million as revenue fell 22 percent, for example — generating an attractive offer from a credible buyer will be his primary focus. And Flanders’ experience has shown that he knows how to handle the sell-off of a company that did better in a bygone era. More after the jump
– Experience helps: Flanders has spent the past three years as president of Freedom, an owner of local TV stations and newspapers. As a sign that Flanders knows something about handling brands that have seemingly been passed by time, he was tapped to serve as chairman and CEO of the Columbia House Company, the discount music retailer, in 1999. At the time, he was brought on to take over the entity that would be created through the combination online retailer CDNow and Columbia House. In March 2000, Flanders convinced Columbia House to cancel the deal, feeling that the merger somehow wasn’t right. With that deal dead, *AOL* Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) and *Sony* Corporation, then 50/50 joint owners of Columbia House, looked to Flanders to concentrate on fixing what was left of Columbia House. Flanders’ company bio clams he ultimately returned the company to profitability and at the direction of the board, he negotiated a leveraged buyout of the company by The Blackstone Group in June 2002. Based on that history, speculation is that Flanders could contrive a similar outcome for Playboy.