Porn Mag Penthouse on Last Legs but Bill Clinton’s Pimp, Marc Bell, Also Owns a Christian Dating Site

2012: Bill Clinton with two pornstar at Monte Carlo party with Marc Bell, Penthouse CEO

Rumors are swirling that adult magazine Penthouse, at one time a top-selling rival to Playboy, is going to be sold again by its current owner, FriendFinder Networks.

FriendFinder officials are so far not confirming any such talks are under way.

“We have no comment on that, but if we ever do sell it, we will let you know,” CEO Jonathan Buckheit, who moved into the top job in August, told Media Ink.

The rumors are circulating eight days after Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, faced with declining circulation because of stiff competition from online porn sites, decided he would gamble that he can increase circulation and advertising by dropping pictures of nude women in the magazine as of the March issue.

Penthouse has gone through hard times since its founder, the late Bob Guccione Sr., was forced to put the magazine into bankruptcy as his publishing empire — which once included Spin, Omni, Longevity and special-interest auto titles — foundered under a sea of debt.

Guccione, who started the magazine in London in 1965 and introduced it to the US in 1969, was forced to resign as CEO in 2003 when the company declared bankruptcy.

In 2006, battling the throat cancer that would eventually kill him, he was forced out of his stunning East 67th Street mansion that housed art works from Picasso, Degas, and Renoir — as well as the city’s largest privately owned indoor pool.

He died in 2010. Tuesday marked the fifth anniversary of his death.

Penthouse once had a circulation of 4.5 million.

It was hurt by the same anti-pornography report from former Attorney General Edwin Meese in 1986 that also hammered Playboy.

Penthouse had always taken a more sexually provocative stance than Playboy with its photos — but its more explicit layouts did not stop the circulation slide as both it and Playboy were undermined by the wide number of free advertiser-supported porn sites on the Internet.

Marc Bell bought Penthouse out of bankruptcy in 2006 and then spent $500 million to purchase the adult online dating service FriendFinder, which includes FastCupid, PerfectMatch and a Christian dating service, Big Church.

penthouse-marcbell

Bell then took the whole operation public. In 2010, he offered to buy Playboy for $210 million, but was rebuffed by Hefner.

A bankruptcy in 2013 wiped out a good portion of FriendFinder’s debt as well as its equity.

It emerged as a private company controlled by Andrew Conru, a Seattle-based Internet entrepreneur who is a founder of the original FriendFinder, and Stonehill Capital Management in New York.

Conru did not return a call seeking comment.

Wayne Teetsel, a managing partner at Stonehill, declined to comment.

“As far as Penthouse goes, I did not hear of them selling,” said Bob Guccione Jr., who was estranged from his father for years — but reconciled with him several years before his dad died.

“To be honest, I didn’t even know it was still being published. That kind of anonymity is going to make it tough [to sell].”

 

 

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