This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, May 7, 2003, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.
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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, you know, Playboy has been a household name for nearly 50 years, but now one of the top men’s magazines is getting a facelift: new colors, new layouts, and get this, some of the clothing is coming back on at a time when the profits are driving on. Why the change? With us now from Chicago, Christie Hefner, the chairman and the CEO of Playboy Enterprises.
Christie, good to have you back.
CAVUTO: What is going on here?
HEFNER: Well, as you quite rightly pointed out, we have got a lot of exciting things happening with both sides of the figures of Playboy, both in the pages and in the earnings results. We released first-quarter earnings this year. We produced earnings per share of 2 cents, and operating income of four times last first quarter.
CAVUTO: Yes, But the magazine is the part that interests me here because the magazine has been beaten out by some of the other things you’re doing that you led, by the way. My hat’s off to you there, to branch out into thing like video, and some of these other avenues. And it’s proven wise. But now the magazine itself is in for a restructuring. And I’m wondering whether this call for showing more models or women clothed or partially clothed is the answer. What do you say?
HEFNER: Well, I think that that has been exaggerated in terms of the curiosity factor. Because if you look at the issue that’s on sale now with Sarah Kozer, who was the sexy runner-up on Joe Millionaire, you will see that the tasteful nudity that Playboy has been known for for five decades is very much in evidence. We have added some new features under our new editorial director to bring even more personalities into the magazine. And some of those personalities will be in sexy but not nude poses in the front of the book.
CAVUTO: What is the reason for that? Now I know Maxim and Stuff and FHM have been featuring a lot of this already, but are you ceding the territory by imitating them rather than just being the original brand you are?
HEFNER: Well, we are very much going to be the original brand we are. Playboy was the first life-style magazine. It remains the best-selling magazine for men in the U.S. and the world. So what we see when we look at magazines like Maxim is frankly an opportunity, as their young readers grow up, for them to look at Playboy when they are 23-24 and feel it is their magazine. Really the only change in terms of the nudity is that there will be some new features that will have sexy photos in addition to the classic celebrity and Playmate features.
CAVUTO: Is it that you are having trouble getting women to pose nude, or at least well-known women? Were they just saying I have no problem maybe in a washcloth, but I’m not going to be nude?
HEFNER: No. Not at all. The feature that is non-nude and sexy at the front of the book is an up and coming actress. The big names, whether it’s Torrie Wilson from the World Wrestling Federation last month, who sold more copies than any other men’s magazine on the newsstand, or Sarah Kozer this month, are the traditional sexy nude photographs from Playboy.
HEFNER: I think that the package is what remains the same, but the presentation of how much photography, less jump copy, more side bars, more humor is really just taking a opportunity now that we have the first new editor in 30 years to make sure that the magazine remains as successful, and frankly we do think there is a chance to grow on the newsstand.
CAVUTO: Let me ask you this, your dad -- what, he is 77 years old -- and I guess he is still running around in the silk robe and all that, but so he is out of it, right?
HEFNER: No, not at all.
CAVUTO: What is his story? Well, does he tell what you to do, you are the boss, right?
HEFNER: He hasn’t been involved on the business side for a long time. I have been chairman and CEO since the end of the ‘80s and developed, as you know, the strategies to grow the company, first in TV and video and now more recently in online, which we are happy to say is now in a handful of content sites that is profitable out there.
CAVUTO: So he continues to have an active role?
HEFNER: He is definitely still a creative collaborator with the editors and definitely still very involved on the marketing side in terms of the promotion of the brand and obviously part of the cachet historically has come from the Playboy Mansion and the Playboy life-style.
CAVUTO: But let me ask you, as a smart, sophisticated woman yourself, do you think that the thing he does with the robe, the silk robe, and hanging around all of the bunnies and all of that, do you ever tell him, dad, grow up?
HEFNER: Well, as he once said to me, some day all this will be mine when he grows up. So I think he understands that part of the appeal of Playboy is that it connects to that sense of youthful adventure that is timeless. And I think the best affirmation is when he goes out, those 20- year-old guys are saying to Hef, "you da man."
CAVUTO: Well, they are indeed, Christie. Thank you very much. Good seeing you again.
HEFNER: Thanks, Neil.
CAVUTO: Christie Hefner in Chicago.
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