The Great Debate UK

from Breakingviews:

Hef should have his way with Playboy shareholders

No executive satisfies his desires to a greater degree than Hugh Hefner. For half a century the 84-year-old founder of Playboy magazine has cultivated the image of a man who lives life to its libidinous fullness. So it's reasonable to expect that Hef, now in his twilight, will succeed in having his way with yet one more constituency -- his shareholders.

Hefner is offering to buy the 66 percent of the nudie-magazine empire not in his clutches, thereby closing his smoking jacket on public markets and taking the company private. At a 40 percent premium, Hef's entreaty of $5.50 a share doesn't look terribly bare, particularly considering Playboy's $51 million of losses in its last fiscal year.

But the price is closer to Playboy's initial offering price in 1971 than its all-time high of $32 reached 11 years ago. That performance reflects the steady decline of Playboy's brand of adult entertainment, or looked at another way, its failure to keep up with sliding standards in decency. Given the efflorescence of seemingly limitless, and free, Internet pornography, Playboy's relatively tame offering looks downright quaint.

That is presumably why Playboy's arch-rival in the upper shelf of the magazine racks, Penthouse, is staking out a possible counter-offer. Its parent, FriendFinder Networks, is an adept operative in the online porn and social networking business -- if not enticing enough to have fulfilled plans last year for an IPO.

Baer bows to the inevitable

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REUTERS– Margaret Doyle and Alexander Smith are Reuters columnists. The opinions expressed are their own –

Raymond Baer is splitting the family firm. He has noticed the conflict between the private bank and asset manager. Or, as he puts it, “both entities will benefit from their sharpened focus and the absence of competing interests, thus acting pro-actively in the best interest of all of our stakeholders”.

Rio’s charm offensive

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REUTERSJan Du Plessis, the man parachuted into the chair at Rio Tinto from British American Tobacco (they’ve so much in common), has spent a day on a charm offensive with the big shareholders in the mining group.

This Chinese deal is marvelous, he’s telling them. Not only do we get a fine price for selling what are merely minority, passive stakes in our mines, but just think of what we’ll be able to dig up in China with a powerful local to open the doors for us.

from The Great Debate:

New BofA chairman must prove independence

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bofa-- Jonathan Ford is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Shareholders in Bank of America must be hugging themselves at their sheer audacity. They have plucked up the courage to say boo to Ken Lewis, the bank's all-powerful chairman and chief executive.

A shareholder vote on April 29 forced Lewis to relinquish the first of those roles to an "independent chairman". This role will now be taken by Walter Massey.

Don’t say aye, aye to 3i

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REUTERS– Neil Collins is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

It’s hardly surprising that the shareholders in 3i, the listed private equity group, are deeply unhappy at the prospect of having to return 700 million pounds of the 1.75 billion pounds of capital they have received from the company in recent years.

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