Playboy Enterprises Inc. (PLA), whose shares tanked Wednesday after a planned sale of the adult media empire collapsed, has one of porn's biggest executives in its corner. Bill Asher, the co-chief executive of the world's largest adult video producer, Vivid Entertainment Group, tells DailyFinance that he now owns 1 million shares of the company of the company Hugh Hefner founded more than 50 years ago.

Vivid, one of the biggest suppliers of video content to Playboy, wouldn't discuss any potential deals with Playboy because of a nondisclosure agreement. It is one of the few logical buyers for Playboy. Asher started accumulating his stake about four years ago and has bought shares this year. Asher said he "recommends the stock to everyone that I know."

Asher, a former Playboy executive, is optimistic about the future of the Chicago-based company. He insists he is not interested in making a quick buck, and believes that Playboy's new CEO, Scott Flanders, is up to the task of turning the company around. Playboy spokeswoman Martha Lindeman said she was not aware of Asher's stock purchases, but said, "We welcome him as a shareholder."

To Asher and other Playboy shareholders, media reports of the company's obsolescence are overblown.

"Playboy is not in trouble," Asher says. "Playboy needs to get a deal. ... Certainly, anybody who has a brain would be interested."

Playboy remains one of the most iconic brands in U.S., although it has been under assault for years from a plethora of competitors. Investors have been waiting for the company to improve its fortunes, but have always argued that founder Hugh Hefner would never cede control of the company he founded in 1953. Lately, though, Hefner seems to have changed his tune, indicating that he is willing to consider a sale at the right price.

"I am 100% positive that Hefner would sell," Asher says.
"They have a lot to offer."

But there's more to such a deal than price. The $300 million deal that reportedly fell apart with Iconix Brand Group Inc. (ICON) made little business sense. Iconix, the owner and licensee of such as brands as London Fog and Joe Boxer, planned to jettison Playboy's content business, from which Playboy gets most of its revenue, and keep its licensing. Maybe Iconix had trouble finding a buyer given the troubles affecting the adult entertainment. The Los Angeles Times reports that the talks may restart, but I'll believe it when I see it.

Playboy will continue to carry on as it has for decades. On Wednesday, the company named Robert D. Campbell as interim chief financial officer. Meanwhile, Hefner continues to chase after girls young enough to be his great-granddaughters on the The Girls Next Door.

The more things change, the more they stay the same at Playboy, and that's the problem.

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