Hef needs a successor

Peggy Wilkins mozart@lib.uchicago.edu
Tue, 06 May 2003 00:30:25 -0500

Brian brings up an interesting analogy of Hef as royalty, and says he
should have a successor in his lineage.  Certainly that is an
appealing -- and also problematic -- idea.  I think that Brian is
talking mostly about Hef's public image here, but to me this is only
half of the story.  Hef has a unique relationship to PLAYBOY: he is
its creator; it is the fruit of his creative labor.  Can someone from
the outside, who is not its creator, understand what PLAYBOY is and be
faithful to that idea?  What does this even mean?  And is this even

Most outsiders who would be in any position to succeed Hef would have
a professional/business interest in PLAYBOY.  Hef has always had this
interest as well, but as its creator, certainly his interests go
beyond that, to a much more personal level.  Could a successor also
live and love it as Hef has loved it, and as much?  This question is
also in line with Brian's analogy to a line of succession, because in
a way it is like having a new generation come up and replace the
previous one -- and hopefully the replacement appreciates the family
he is coming into as much as the original head of it did.

In my view, I would like to somehow dissociate PLAYBOY from Hef's life
-- to make his offspring immortal, to have his idea live on beyond his
mortal existence.  This is potentially a very difficult proposition,
because so much of what PLAYBOY is has been bound up with this one
man's conceptions, with his personal energy.  (This is not to minimize
the contributions of others; but we should recognize that as valuable
as those contributions have been, they were contributed in the service
of one man's creation, and were largely directed by him.)  There seems
to be an obvious danger of having the corporate machine swallow up his
creation and morph it into something else entirely -- what was a labor
of one man's love could become little more than an automated money
making machine.  This would seem to drain the life out of it; and this
would not be faithful to the ideas which brought PLAYBOY to life.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to make money; in fact, it is
required to support the enterprise that produces PLAYBOY.  That is a
fact of life.  But the money has come in because the ideas behind the
enterprise were sound.  I feel that it is important for Hef to have a
successor who understands those ideas, and who adapts them to changing
times while still keeping them the driving force behind the machine.

Peggy Wilkins