Though she shares his last name, Christie Hefner, CEO of Playboy Enterprises, couldn't be more different than her infamous father, Hugh - he of the smoking jacket-topped silk pajamas. Hef, Playboy's founder and former CEO, is known more for unfailing enthusiasm for curvy babes and the party life than business sense. Not so daughter Christie, who is widely credited with turning around her father's flailing empire.
With her clean-cut features, sharply tailored suits, and professional demeanor, Hefner has been shoring up the House that Hef built since 1982, when she was named Playboy's president at the tender age of 29. Then in a mid-life crisis of sorts, the company Hefner inherited from Dad was coping with a drastic decline in the circulation of its flagship monthly as well as the dead weight of cash-hemorrhaging casinos and night clubs, where the rabbit-ear clad Bunnies seemed to outnumber paying patrons. Also dragging on Playboy's balance sheet was 1982's annual loss of $51.8 million, not to mention a walking cliche of a CEO who much preferred hosting lavish parties at his Boogie Nights-style and Playboy Enterprises-funded mansion than fretting about shareholder returns.
Hefner, who was just a year old in 1953, when Hef left a post at Esquire and used a $600 loan to publish the first issue of Playboy, wasted no time launching a makeover of the embattled company. After shaping up operations and shirking off the floundering casino and nightclub holdings, she set about leveraging Playboy's powerful brand name through ancillary businesses such as adult-oriented cable TV and pay-per-view programming and a catalog division hawking videos, CDs, and lingerie. Her efforts brought about her first - and, according to Christie, only - business-related clash with Hef. "I wanted to close the Playboy Clubs, and he wanted to try to resurrect them," she recalls. The debate ended with a father-daughter compromise: the launch of a new version of the Playboy Club in New York. "Like most clubs, it didn't make very much money, and we then got out of the business."
While Playboy was clearly ready for a change, the leadership swap from power playboy to power babe was not entirely painless. "When Christie was pressed into service the company was flailing and without direction," says Dennis McAlpine, a media analyst with Ryan, Beck & Co. "Christie didn't have CEO experience when she started, and she tried doing some things that didn't work in terms of bringing in...