Hef putting the bunny in her pen

Hugh Hefner hangs onto a pair of models, including new wife Crystal Harris, right.

Hugh Hefner, whose Playboy magazine first exposed many Americans to the possibilities of sexual freedom during the buttoned-up 1950s, is taking the bunny private.

Playboy Enterprises Inc., the publisher known for its bunny ears and nude centerfolds, plans to go private in a deal that values the company at $207 million. The owner of rival Penthouse magazine earlier offered a higher bid. Shares of Playboy jumped almost 17 percent in morning trading yesterday.

Playboy has been publicly traded since 1971, and its investors  have seen the company’s stock price fall in recent years as people turn from magazines to the Internet for free pictures of naked women and pornography.

As recently as 1999, its shares were trading at more than $30 before falling to less than $2 in early 2009 during the financial crisis.

“[Hefner] has been taking it on the chin from a number of different shareholders,” said Caris and Co. analyst David Miller. The company has been changing its business to focus more on licensing the popular “Bunny Ears” logo.

“I am being robbed,” said Mark Boyar, president of Boyar Asset Management and the Boyar Value Fund, which holds close to 2 percent of Playboy shares. “We are very disappointed in the price.” 


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