January, 2016 began with some unusual real estate news that ended in the July sale and August real estate closing of Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion. The iconic landmark was listed on the market by Playboy Enterprises Inc. for $200 million, making it the most expensive completed home for sale in the United States. Hefner acquired the property originally for $1 million back in 1971, preferring the West Coast climate to his long-time headquarters and mansion located in Chicago. That building has since been sold and redeveloped into fashionable condominiums.
The Playboy Mansion has adored the covers of endless magazines, including the highly regarded Architectural Digest. The 20,000-square-foot mansion has been the site of many celebrity parties and photo shoots. The Mansion is the only home in all of Los Angeles County with a special license for zoo animals situated in the rear of the Holmby Hills estate. Hefner’s mansion features 29 rooms, a four-bedroom guest house, a full tennis court, an artificial cave-like Grotto, a game room, a renowned wine cellar, a movie theater, a catering kitchen and a gym with a swimming pool.
Terms of the mansion’s sale include Mr. Hefner being allowed to live in the mansion until his death. Hefner is 90 years of age. The editor and publisher has a remarkable I.Q. north of 150 and has written scholarly articles including a multi-year installment of “The Playboy Philosophy”.
Hefner works nearly seven days a week on editorial content, having started the magazine in 1953 with a modest loan collateralized with apartment furniture. In fact, the original issue required a $5,000 loan to purchase a photo of Marilyn Monroe on the cover with the month conspicuously absent. This was directly attributable to doubts that the magazine would become viable. After the first issue required over 50,000 prints, Playboy was officially launched as the men’s magazine of substance, style and beautiful, tastefully photographed nude women. At its 1972 peak, Playboy boasted well over 4.2 million subscribers.
The Playboy empire was diversified with Playboy branded nightclubs and resorts. The brand carried a hip sophistication evident with top authors ranging from Truman Capote, Arthur Miller, Saul Bellow, PC Wodehouse, Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, Ben Stein and Alex Haley. The Playboy Interview featured such notable guests as: Dr. Martin Luther King, Miles Davis, Watergate figure G. Gordon Liddy, the reclusive actor Marlon Brando and scholarly articles ranging from fashion trends, men’s health, The Playboy Advisor and artistic illustrations of painter LeRoy Neiman. The Playboy Jazz Festival heralded guests from Miles Davis, Buddy Rich, Jaco Pastorius, Thad Jones, Mel Lewis, Oscar Peterson, Lionel Hampton, and Herbie Hancock.
The property’s size and location was a strong selling point. The sale is a strategic decision that will allow Playboy “to continue to reinvest in the transformation of our business”, said CEO Scott Flanders. The newly unveiled appears to square directly to Maxim, with subscriptions trending upwards of over 400 percent, sans a staple of Playboy – totally nude women. Actually, more demure nude women have given way to the social revolution Hefner started in 1953.
(Photos: Playboy Enterprises)
By the middle 1960s, The Playboy Jet (dubbed ‘The Big Bunny’) a sleek, black Douglas DC-9 Series 30 (retrofitted with the amenities of an apartment and larger fuel tanks for international travel) became an extension of the Playboy branding. Hefner took delivery of the jet in 1969. He sold it in April 1976, having settled permanently in Los Angeles, California.
Despite comparisons to Maxim magazine, the value and instantly recognizable Playboy branding carries significant value. Entire hardbound books detailing the history of the Playboy brand and the magazine’s development through the decades have included Playboy bunnies who are household names such as Shanna Moakler, Pamela Anderson, Bo Derek, Shannon Tweed, Cindy Crawford, Jenny McCarthy, Denise Richards, Kim Basinger, Elle MacPherson, Rachel Hunter and Carmen Electra.
Hefner’s philanthropic work has included The Playboy Foundation’s fight for social issues and repatriating Vietnamese orphans to loving homes inside the United States — to name a mere sampling. So far, the new magazine roll out in 2016 has all the hallmarks of class.