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Sex Star Hooks Up With Playboy

The venerable soft-core publisher acquires Club Jenna, a leading porn flick producer. The deal pushes Hefner further into explicit fare.

June 23, 2006|Claire Hoffman | Times Staff Writer

Porn icon Jenna Jameson is shedding her assets, selling Club Jenna Inc. to adult entertainment giant Playboy Enterprises.

Playboy said Thursday that it had paid an undisclosed amount of cash for the hard-core film production company founded by Jameson, one of the world's most celebrated sex stars.

The Phoenix-based company also owns 18 websites and a library of adult films, including "I Dream of Jenna" and "The Masseuse." Jameson and her husband, Jay Grdina, will continue to manage the operation.

"Jenna is probably the only 'entertainment-for-adults' star who crosses over from mainstream to adult and back again," said Jim Griffiths, president of Playboy Entertainment Group. He called Jameson a global brand.

Jameson rose to international fame starring in nearly 100 adult films.

The 32-year-old platinum blond, who shares a birthday with Playboy magazine founder and editor in chief Hugh Hefner, has become one of the most searched personalities on the Internet. She reached mainstream audiences through frequent TV and film appearances and by writing a bestselling autobiography, "How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale."

Buying Jameson's company inches Playboy Enterprises further toward explicit sexual content, which it long eschewed even while competing with Penthouse and Hustler.

In recent years, however, Playboy has embraced more hard-core material.

One reason may be that Playboy's financial fortunes have been declining. Last year, the Chicago firm's profit fell to $4.6 million from $14.5 million the previous year. The flagship magazine's monthly paid U.S. circulation is about 3 million -- less than half its level of the early 1970s.

Jameson's Club Jenna has become one of the porn industry's top five production companies in the six years since it was launched. Jameson is locked into a DVD distribution deal until 2014 with the nation's largest producer of pornographic movies, Vivid Entertainment Group, which is based in the San Fernando Valley.

Vivid and Playboy share a somewhat checkered past. Playboy purchased three TV networks from Vivid in 2001 and contracted with the porn company to supply content for those networks.

But in May, Vivid sued Playboy, saying it had not been paid in full. Griffiths would not comment on the lawsuit but said Vivid would continue to distribute Club Jenna DVDs.

Still, for Vivid, the acquisition means a new competitor.

"It would be kind of like if we started launching a Playboy-esque magazine," said Vivid co-Chairman Bill Asher. "Except that business doesn't make money."

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