When the dilapidated Playboy mansion was put on sale in January for a purported $200 million, the natural question was: What's the Playboy mansion without Hef? That query was quickly answered when we all learned that the bathrobe-clad 89-year-old tenant was an essential part of the deal. But now that the entire crumbling Playboy empire has been placed on the selling block, a new question bubbles to the grotto surface:
What's the Playboy mansion worth without Playboy?
Reports have emerged that Playboy Enterprises -- owner of the iconic magazine which has been shedding readers for decades and its signature photos of airbrushed naked women just last month -- is investigating sales opportunities.
The company, valued at as much as $500 million, could be sold off as a whole or split into separate parts, including its profitable bunny-head licensing business … and its 29-room, Beverly Hills bachelor pad which Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and his curvaceous, scantily clad bunnies made into America's most famous home this side of the White House.
Observers were already skeptical about the price attached to this decomposing shrine to sinfulness. But once the Playboy name and association are stripped (pun intended) from the 5-acre property, would it still be worth anywhere close to 200 million George Washingtons?
That depends, say high-end real estate agents.
"Did they put a crazy price tag on it?" says Matthew Altman, a Beverly Hills real estate agent at Douglas Elliman and a guest star on Bravo's "Million Dollar Listing." "Absolutely. But this is a crazy property."
Placing a sky-high valuation on the mansion of several generation of teenage boys' fantasies is a smart way to generate buzz, says real estate broker Dolly Lenz, who specializes in luxury real estate across the country. "You need a bullish asking price to get the attention necessary to sell it," she says.
But the edifice that gave birth to the reality show "The Girls Next Door" is probably worth only about $80 million to $90 million, says Roger Perry, an agent at Rodeo Realty in Beverly Hills. And if it didn't have the Playboy prestige, it would probably go for only between $60 million to $65 million.
Perry believes it could sell for more -- maybe north of $100 million -- if Hefner would move out.
"Nobody wants to buy it and not be able to live in it or at least remodel it," Perry says.
Buyers who aren't dissuaded by the mansion's infamous resident in chief, and his presumably downscaled bevy of beauties, could use the estate's cachet to recoup their investment. "Playboy is always going to be attached to this house," Perry says. "It still has that cachet."
Some have conjectured that the new owners could negotiate with Playboy Enterprises to operate the mansion as a full-fledged tourist destination, complete with faux bunnies, to give everyday Americans a taste of the swingin' '60s and '70s Playboy After Dark experience. Think of it as Graceland with cleavage.
But Altman believes it's unlikely the place could be successfully transformed into a year-round, R-rated theme park, because Hefner's uber-wealthy neighbors wouldn't allow it.
"It's a very private community," he says.
However, it could also be used as an event space, to host car or trade shows -- even weddings, Perry says.
But before the new owners can do anything with the mansion, they'll need to plunk down millions in sorely needed renovations. And that may not be a drawback, says broker Lenz. New owners of even the swankiest estates will often gut their new residences to suit their particular tastes. Granite countertops, anyone?
However, the mansion's value will probably fall along with the Playboy brand, especially if the struggling magazine goes under.
"The name will still withstand, because Playboy has become part of our vocabulary," Perry says. "But it won't have the glamour and excitement it did back in its heyday."