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Playboy returns to public markets, CEO shares the details

Ben Kohn, Playboy CEO, joins Yahoo Finance’s The First Trade with Alexis Christoforous and Brian Sozzi to discuss the company's decision to return to the public markets in a business combination with a publicly-traded special purpose acquisition company, Mountain Crest Acquisition Corporation.

Video Transcript

BRIAN SOZZI: Playboy is making its way back to Wall Street. That's right. The company is going public through a SPAC transaction with Mountain Crest Acquisition Corp. This comes after the late founder, Hugh Hefner, took the company private back in 2011. The CEO of Playboy, Ben Kohn, joins us now. Ben, good to see you.

So just take us through-- what does the business look like right now? I feel as though a lot of people, when they think Playboy, they think Hugh Hefner, Playboy Mansion, print and magazines, but my sense is that's not what the business looks like today.

BEN KOHN: That's not what the businesses at all today, Brian. And good morning. The business today is a commerce business. We are one of the largest brands in the world. We sell product in over 180 countries. Consumers spend in excess of $3 billion buying our products, really, across four categories.

The first is sexual wellness. The second is apparel and accessories. In China, we are the leading men's fashion brand. We have over 2,500 stores and 1,000 e-com stores. Gaming and lifestyle-- we have a very large digital gaming business. And then the last is beauty and grooming.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: I know that licensing is a huge part of the business. You've really pivoted to become this consumer products brand with the iconic Playboy brand behind you. But, you know, when you look at the business, there is this heightened sensitivity, right, to the kinds of content that Playboy has been historically known for. And amidst the Me Too movement, you know, how does Playboy market itself to the general public in an effective way?

BEN KOHN: Yeah. Look. We have always been for equality, for free speech, free expression, and for owning your own sexuality. And I think that comes through with what we've done with the audience, with the content creators, and the ambassadors that we work with today. If you look at our audience growth over the last two years, we've grown our female audience 70%.

Our average age-- 85% of our audience is under 44 years of age. We've added 10 million new social followers. And 50% of our company today is made up of women, across all ranks.

BRIAN SOZZI: Ben, just looking into the numbers here, a big goal for 2025-- $100 million in adjusted EBITDA. Are you profitable today? And how are you-- how will you reach $100 million?

BEN KOHN: Yeah. We're very profitable today. The business is up 68% this year on revenue, over 106% on EBITDA. Next year, we have a target of $40 million. We're well on our way to it.

Alexis had mentioned licensing before. Licensing gives us a ton of visibility into our forward book numbers. We have over 400 million of forward book cash flow through 2029 for the business. And so when you look at the growth that we're experiencing today and then what this capital will provide, the growth will come across all sectors, as they are growing today.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Ben, talk to us about handling data protection. You've got to be having a lot of data on folks with all of this selling, especially online. Privacy-- I mean, for those who want to be discreet but still participate in some of the things that Playboy offers and may be a little hesitant to do that online, how are you dealing with data privacy?

BEN KOHN: Yeah. We're dealing with data privacy like other companies are dealing with that data privacy. It's key to our tech team and the infrastructure that we use internally. All of those transactions are private. But again, this is a commerce business today.

And so when you look at our partnerships with PacSun, with Missguided, with our fragrance business, what people are interacting with us today is for commerce and for buying Playboy branded products around the world.

BRIAN SOZZI: You know, key to this story, I think, Ben, is you, in many respects. You were involved in that deal that took Playboy private in 2011. What are your plans after this deal? Do you plan to stay with Playboy after the public debut?

BEN KOHN: Yeah. So 66% of the company on a forward go basis will be owned by existing shareholders and management. All the existing shareholders, including management, which owned about 23% of the company prior to the deal, are rolling and signing one-year lockups. My goal is to continue to build this.

This is the biggest opportunity I have ever seen in my career. You just can't fathom how large this business is and how large this brand is on a global basis. You couldn't recreate what we have today.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Speaking of opportunity, you see opportunity in the cannabis industry. And I know, historically, Playboy has been behind cannabis reform for decades. What are your plans for if and when it's legalized at the federal level?

BEN KOHN: So today, we've launched a line of CBD products. We have three products in market and many more in development. When it is legal on the federal basis, we do plan on rolling out THC products. We have developed them, but we will not roll them out until it's legal on a federal basis.

BRIAN SOZZI: And Ben, real quick, before we let you go, when do you expect to debut on markets? Do you have a date?

BEN KOHN: Look, a typical process is somewhere between 60 and 90 days from now.

BRIAN SOZZI: All right. We'll leave it there. The CEO of Playboy, Ben Kohn. Good to see you. I look forward to having you back.

BEN KOHN: Great. Appreciate it, guys. Thank you.