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Hefner and Penthouse in Playboy bidding war

By Annalyn Censky, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Shares of Playboy surged 41% Monday as a bidding war emerged for the iconic adult entertainment company.

Founder Hugh Hefner proposed to take the company private Monday morning. Later in the day, the owner of Penthouse magazine said it will put up a bid for its longtime competitor.

Click the chart to view the current price of Playboy shares.

Playboy Enterprises (PLA) said Hefner offered to buy the remaining shares of the company that he didn't already own at $5.50 each, a 40% premium from the stock's $3.94 closing price on Friday. The offer values the company at about $185 million.

Just hours after Playboy's announcement, FriendFinder Networks -- the parent company of Penthouse -- said it was working on a rival offer. That helped boost Playboy's stock above Hefner's offering price. Shares closed at $5.55 a share.

FriendFinder CEO Marc Bell told CNNMoney.com that Hefner's announcement got his attention and that a FriendFinder bid could be announced as early as Monday evening.

"We think the price is low and there's a lot of value there," he said.

Earlier in the morning, Playboy said in a statement that Hefner is concerned about the company's brand and the editorial direction of the magazine and is not interested in selling Playboy to another company.

Hefner, who launched Playboy magazine in 1953 (the first issue featured nude photos of Marilyn Monroe), already owns 69.5% of Playboy's class A stock and 27.7% of its class B stock.

Hefner's proposal mentions a partnership with private-equity firm Rizvi Traverse Management to finance the deal.

Playboy is in the midst of restructuring from a company that relies on traditional media like magazine publishing and movies to one that primarily licenses its famous bunny brand. The company has struggled to keep its magazine division profitable, even after venturing into digital content.

After cost-cutting measures, the company still reported a $962,000 loss in the first quarter of the year, but that was an improvement over its nearly $14 million loss a year earlier.

Playboy CEO Scott Flanders has called 2010 a "transitional year" for the company, saying he expects overall sales to continue to decline but that its licensing business -- its most profitable segment -- would grow.

The company continues to make cuts to streamline the organization and announced in June that it will take a $3 million restructuring charge in its second quarter. Playboy will announce results for that quarter on August 5.  To top of page

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