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Editor Says It Will Continue to Publish : Playgirl Magazine Petitions for Chapter 11 Protection

June 12, 1986|DENISE GELLENE | Times Staff Writer

Playgirl magazine has filed for protection from its creditors under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in New York.

The monthly publication, which offers light self-help features, celebrity interviews and a variety of Man of the Month nude photographs, had been losing circulation and advertising revenue steadily for the last several years.

Playgirl Editor Tomi Lewis, reached at her office, said that Playgirl will continue to be published and that the owners plan to keep the company's headquarters in Santa Monica.

"We're working on the October issue right now," said Lewis, who is also the corporate secretary of Playgirl, according to the bankruptcy filing.

She declined to elaborate on the company's plans and would not discuss the bankruptcy court filing.

Started in 1973, Playgirl was selling 1.5 million copies a month within a year. A decade later, circulation had dropped by 60%. Some advertising executives suggested that the Playgirl formula bored the career-oriented women of the 1980s.

Nudity is not enough, they said. "It's like a television show that is one-joke situation comedy. After you tell it, what's left?" said Jim Spero, a senior vice president at the Doyle Dane Bernbach ad agency in Los Angeles. Spero said Playgirl didn't offer the serious political pieces or interviews occasionally found in Playboy magazine.

Other industry observers said it was never clear to advertisers whether Playgirl's readers were only women or also homosexual men.

"I think the biggest question was who was reading the magazine," said Tony Hoyt, the West Coast advertising manager for Cosmopolitan magazine. The magazine's owners have always insisted that it was published for women.

The magazine filed for bankruptcy court protection on May 23, shortly after one of its owners, Ira Ritter, sold his share as a result of messy courtroom battle with his former partner, Stephen L. Geller. Ritter also sold his interest in Ritter Geller Communications, which operated Playgirl, a book publishing business, a cable television management firm and Slimmer magazine. Ritter Geller Communications has also filed for protection in bankruptcy court.

Taken together, Playgirl and Ritter Geller Communications reported an accumulated deficit of $4,160,715, according to the bankruptcy filing. Among the companies' biggest creditors were New York-based Warner Publishing, which was owed $1.3 million, and Arcata Graphics-Buff of DePew, N.Y., which was owed $1.2 million. Warner distributed Playgirl's newsstand copies and Arcata published the magazine, former employees said.

The bankruptcy filing also identifies Playgirl's new part-owner as Lusso Enterprises. Former Playgirl Vice President Rand Richardson said the new owner is Carl Ruderman, a New York businessman with interests in High Society and Cherie, two men's magazines. Ruderman didn't return telephone calls to his New York office on Wednesday.

Former Ritter Geller employees said that finances had been tight at the magazine firm for some time. Laurie Berger, former editor of Slimmer magazine, said employees had to bring their own pencils and paper to work.

"There was no such thing as a wall calender or a Roledex in that office," she said. Berger left Slimmer a month ago.

PLAYGIRL AT A GLANCE

Advertising

Year Revenue Pages Circulation 1985 NA* NA* 575,547 1984 $1.374 million 420 606,041 1983 $1.584 million 444 640,225 1982 $1.692 million 484 672,508 1981 $1.900 million 437 726,719 1980 $3.225 million 511 784,963 1979 $3.921 million 409 NA*

Advertising revenue and page source: Folio Magazine.

Circulation source: Audit Bureau of Circulations.

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