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Playboy: Back In The Black Just Barely


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PLAYBOY: BACK IN THE BLACK--JUST BARELY

Christie Hefner, the CEO of Playboy Enterprises, is limping around in an ankle-to-thigh brace these days, nursing a painful ski injury. She should be back on her feet in the next few months. So should Playboy.

In early May, it unexpectedly announced a third-quarter loss of $8.4 million--as much as it earned in the previous three years. The company's stock plunged from 13 at yearend to under 7 amid doubts about Hefner's forays into cable TV and video. Cable operators have been slow to expand capacity, limiting opportunities for Playboy programming. And home-video sales are dragging. "This has definitely been a difficult year for us," Hefner says.

But analysts say Playboy should return to profitability--albeit not by much--in the fourth quarter ending June 30. Cable operations are looking up. And Hefner, the 41-year-old daughter of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, who took over as CEO in 1988, has trimmed expenses. She cut staffing by 10% in September and cleared her balance sheet with one-time charges totaling $5.3 million. One of those charges reflects a loss on a documentary about, yes, Hugh Hefner.Greg Burns


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