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Playboy to outsource magazine ops to American Media

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Playboy Enterprises Inc will outsource all its publishing operations except for editorial to American Media Inc in a bid to cut costs and return its namesake magazine to profitability in two years.
/ Source: Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Playboy Enterprises Inc will outsource all its publishing operations except for editorial to American Media Inc in a bid to cut costs and return its namesake magazine to profitability in two years.

The company said on Tuesday that Playboy magazine is forecast to lose $8 million in 2009, and this outsourcing move would reduce that loss by $5 million in 2010 before it reaches profitability in late 2011.

The move comes as Playboy Enterprises, founded by Hugh Hefner, is in talks to be sold for about $300 million. Sources familiar with the matter said earlier this month that Iconix Brand Group was interested in the Chicago-based company, as was Jim Griffiths, a former entertainment president at Playboy.

Florida-based American Media, the fourth-largest U.S. magazine publisher, will take over production, circulation, advertising sales, marketing and support functions of both Playboy magazine and the company's other domestic publications.

American Media will be paid fees for these functions, as well as incentives to increase advertising and circulation revenue, Playboy said. It did not give details.

The move will result in about 25 job cuts, leading to a fourth-quarter charge of $2 million, Playboy said, adding that some of the positions will be transferred to American Media.

"By joining forces with American Media, we will be able to significantly reduce our cost structure and leverage the economies of scale related to manufacturing, distribution and marketing," Playboy Chief Executive Scott Flanders said.

"This partnership will enable us to generate profits from our magazine operations in 2011," he said in a statement.

Earlier this month, Playboy posted a narrower third-quarter loss of $1.1 million, or 3 cents per share, as revenue fell across its print, TV and licensing businesses. That compared with its $6.2 million loss, or 19 cents a share, a year earlier.

The outsourcing move was first reported in the Wall Street Journal, which said it would be funded in part from Playboy's advertising sales.

Shares of Playboy rose 3 percent to $4.24 in premarket trade from their previous close of $4.12.

(Reporting by Tiffany Wu and Deepti Govind, editing by Dave Zimmerman)