The Playboy Mansion has been put on the market. According to Reuters, the Gothic Tudor-style property is selling for $200 million, making it the most expensive home on the market.
But if you want the property, be prepared for a major caveat: Hugh Hefner, the 89-year-old Playboy founder, is staying put. His private residence will serve as the publishing magnate’s home for the rest of his natural life, according to a statement from Playboy Enterprises announcing the sale of the property.
“The Playboy Mansion has been a creative center for Hef as his residence and workplace for the past 40 years, as it will continue to be if the property is sold,” it said.
Whether Hefner stays for free or pays rent would be part of the negotiations.
Playboy Enterprises already committed one act of unthinkable blasphemy in October announced, with its decision to stop running nude pictorials in its magazine. But the sale of the legendary residence brings the publication’s golden era to a definitive close, its airbrushed pictorials rendered obsolete in the “2 Girls 1 Cup” era.
The property has been co-listed by two Los Angeles real estate agencies, Hilton & Hyland and The Agency. Built in 1927, the property’s dazzling array of amenities includes a tennis court and a swimming pool, but even if the new owner of the property shuns the outdoors, this individual will still have nearly 20,000 square feet and 29 rooms in which to vegetate.
The mansion has six bedrooms, six full bathrooms and two half baths. It also has four buildings on-site — a four-bedroom guest house, a game house, a bathhouse and a gym. It also has its own zoo license, one of only a few places in Los Angeles to have one that’s not an actual zoo.
Movie fans can enjoy their favorite films in the movie screening room, while the musically inclined can avail themselves of the Aeolian pipe organ, whose pipes jut skyward to second floor. If your guests like to cook, they can do that too, in the full-service commercial kitchen.
The grotto and depraved excess
The mansion also comes with the storied grotto, where myriad tales of depraved excess were born. Actor Rob Lowe wrote in Esquire that during the 1980s, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner invited him to a party there, and even though it was already a full decade past its heyday, there was still plenty to see.
“The crowd could vary from screenwriting geniuses like Robert Towne and Buck Henry to star athletes like Magic Johnson,” he said. “It goes without saying that you would also see the absolute top tier of beautiful and usually available women that LA had to offer.”
Today, Playboy Mansion anecdotes belong to the distant past, and the property only recently returned to the headlines when a woman alleged that comedian Bill Cosby had drugged and raped her there in 2008. All in all, it’s a good time for Playboy Enterprises to reposition its brand. To be blunt, the company has little choice.
The magazine brand is hurting
According to the Alliance for Audited Media, the magazine’s circulation has plummeted to 800,000 copies per month, a fraction of the 5.6 million copies it sold 40 years ago. Making a definitive break from the symbols of its past — including the lifestyle that the Playboy Mansion once epitomized — is a necessary step in repositioning it.
Gary Gold is Executive Vice President at Hilton & Hyland and agent for the property. He told Fortune that while sold more than his share of luxury properties, this one is in a class by itself. “This is my business, selling luxury properties,” he said. “But even if your business is selling luxury properties, there’s luxury properties and then there’s the Playboy Mansion.”
Gold said that the person who ends up buying it may not necessarily be interested in it as a residence, primary or otherwise.“The person who’ll buy this is the same type of person that buys a highly coveted sports franchise,” he said. “There are people who collect properties all over the world, and this one would be on their mantel.”
Gold said that the Playboy Mansion is that person’s ideal collector’s item.
“The trend with a lot of these large sales is that they’re one of a lot of residences, all owned by billionaires who all love to own prized possessions,” he said. “The person who buys this is a person who wants to buy something thought to be unattainable. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to own a piece of history.”
History aside, the property also highly desirable on the basis of its location. Nestled in the prestigious Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles on South Mapleton Drive, Gold said that the address makes it one of the best properties in the world. “Even if this property had no history, that makes it a big deal.”
Still, a $200 million price tag may give some buyers pause. However, Gold said that while he’s sold luxury properties for $70 million at the highest end, he hasn’t seen any hesitancy among potential buyers for this one. “Based on the initial interest that we’ve gotten since day one, it’s the right price to be asking,” he said.
Playboy bought the mansion in 1971 for $1.1 million, and put another $14.2 million into renovations, according to a 2008 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. These renovations included $2.7 million made to Hefner’s private residence inside the home, separate from the mansion’s common area.
The mansion where the rich and famous hobnobbed with the barely clothed was once the site of wanton immorality worthy of the Emperor Caligula. But in the age of free and extremely graphic Internet pornography, Playboy magazine now seems like an innocent relic of a bygone age. Still, it’s an age that many look back on with great fondness, and the massive price tag that the Playboy Mansion carries is proof of that.
“For 30-plus years, I’ve been selling massive estates,” Gold said. “This is a whole other category, The only time we’ll have something at this level again is if we sell the Playboy Mansion again.”
Daniel Bukszpan is a New York-based freelance writer.