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Playboy inks deal to go public via blank-check company

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Playboy has signed a deal to become a public company — yet again — in a deal that values the iconic brand at $412 million.

Playboy on Thursday said it signed a deal to go public through a merger with Mountain Crest Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company that raised over $58.6 million in June with the goal of acquiring a company to take over its stock listing.

But the print magazine that was once the foundation of the empire will be a relic to a bygone era as the company pushes further into e-commerce and sexual wellness.

“We’re no longer a media company, we’re a consumer products and digital services company,” said CEO Ben Kohn, in an interview with Media Ink. The Playboy of today counts on consumer products for 83 percent of its revenue, said Kohn, who will be staying on as CEO when the company goes public.

“We’ll have over $100 million in unrestricted cash to accelerate organic growth and finance future acquisitions,” said Kohn, who also heads the investment firm Rizvi Traverse that bought Playboy from founder Hugh Hefner in 2011.

Playboy Enterprises Inc., founded by the late Hugh Hefner, will eventually trade on the Nasdaq under the symbol “PLBY.” The new company will be called simply “Playboy.” The deal is expected to be completed in 60 to 90 days.

The Post first reported on Playboy’s exclusive talks with Mountain Crest, as well as its decision to go public to fund its push into sexual wellness products, spirits and cannabis, earlier this month.

Mountain Crest is headed by chairman Suying Liu, a Chinese national, and Dong Liu, the chief financial officer.

Playboy, launched in 1953 with a centerfold of Marilyn Monroe, was publicly traded between 1971 and 2011, when it went private. But the new Playboy will be markedly different from the one run by Hefner, who died in 2017.

Sources who have seen the investment pitch said the new plan calls for Playboy to be driven by three main businesses: sexual wellness, legal cannabis products and e-commerce, including goods from its sexy apparel company Yandy, which Playboy purchased in February.

Its media business, which now consists of a website with articles and shots of scantily clad women, will be used to promote the other businesses. “Playboy.com is really an e-commerce experience,” said Kohn, with 150 Playboy branded products for sale surrounded by the types of advice stories that once might have been found in  the Playboy Advisor column.

The former business model has floundered along with many other old-school publishing businesses in the age of the internet. It was sold to private equity firm Rizvi Traverse in 2011 for $207 million in a deal that took the company private. But even then the iconic magazine was having a hard time finding its footing at a time when racy and often free internet porn littered a marketplace that Playboy, Penthouse and Screw once dominated.

In March, the company said it would stop printing the magazine that was once the cornerstone of an empire that included a Playboy mansion in Los Angeles that in its heyday was the scene of days-long parties, as well as clubs in London, New York and Chicago and licensing deals for everything from coffee mugs to condoms. The Playboy bunny ears remain one of the most recognizable corporate logos in the world.

The money-losing clubs have been shut down. The new owners tried to revive a new club on West 42nd Street in Manhattan recently, but that shuttered after less than a year of operation.

Under terms of the deal, Mountain Crest has agreed to acquire all the outstanding shares of Playboy Enterprises for $381.3 million in cash plus the assumption of “no more than $142.1 million” in debt. Sources said the main holder of that debt is Fortress Capital.

The deal calls for Mountain Crest to turn over the $58 million it raised from its IPO plus another $50 million in private investment in public equity. Playboy’s existing shareholders will retain control of 66 percent of the new company and will be allowed to retain board and chairman positions so long as they retain at least 15 percent of the common stock.



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