* Playboy Mansion said to be undervalued in takeover
* Shareholders say Hefner buying Playboy too cheaply
By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK, Feb 11 (Reuters) - So how much is Hugh Hefner’s iconic Playboy Mansion really worth?
The issue has arisen in a lawsuit accusing the 84-year-old media mogul of trying to take Playboy Enterprises Inc PLA.N, the publisher known for nude centerfolds, private in a sweetheart deal at other shareholders’ expense.
In an amended complaint filed Feb. 4 in Delaware Chancery Court, shareholders complained that an October 2010 appraisal valued the 29-room Los Angeles mansion at $54 million, 45 times higher than the $1.2 million shown on Playboy’s books.
This is unfair, they say, because it leaves the entire company undervalued.
They say Playboy is shortchanging them just as the company prepares to benefit from recent cost cuts and a growing focus on licensing its iconic “Bunny Ears” logo, to offset a trend whereby more people use the Internet to view naked women.
By “overreaching,” the complaint said, “Hefner is preventing Playboy Enterprises shareholders from receiving the highest price possible for their shares.”
The lawsuit seeks class-action status, and said Playboy should have tried to find better offers from third parties.
Hefner controls about 70 percent of Playboy’s Class A stock and 69.5 percent of its voting power, court and regulatory records show.
A Playboy spokeswoman did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Hefner proposed on Jan. 10 to take Playboy private at $6.15 per share, valuing the Chicago-based company at $207 million.
The offer was 18 percent above where the shares had closed the prior Friday, and 12 percent above a separate offer that Hefner had made the previous July.
Described on its website as “Hef’s Garden of Eden” and “a miniaturized Versailles,” the turreted Playboy Mansion sits on a hilltop and features a pool, a gymnasium, tennis courts, a bath house and a grotto, among other accouterments.
Including land and improvements, the six-acre complex is valued at $5.09 million, according to the property roll of the Los Angeles County assessor’s office.
Hefner paid $1.05 million for the property in 1971. Playboy Enterprises now owns the Gothic-and-Tudor style mansion and leases it to to him.
The mansion plays host to a variety of parties and other social events, and is a setting for film and television productions and magazine photography.
Playboy shares closed Friday up 1 cent at $6.14.
The case is In re: Playboy Enterprises Inc Shareholders Litigation, Delaware Chancery Court, No. 5632. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bernard Orr)