New spat over Penthouse sales

The publisher of Penthouse, Northern & Shell, is trying to boost the magazine’s circulation in a bid to protect a basement sales figure, on which its UK franchise may depend.

The publisher of Penthouse, Northern & Shell, is trying to boost the magazine’s circulation in a bid to protect a basement sales figure, on which its UK franchise may depend.

This figure has become critical in N&S’s legal battle with the owner of the US version of Penthouse. N&S’s licence stipulates that UK sales must remain above this level. Neither party will reveal the precise figure.

Penthouse editor Deric Botham admits the magazine has been attempting to push sales – now at “around 120,000” – mainly through tactical moves, such as a Princess Di lookalikes centre spread.

“Our job is to make sure sales stay above their [the US publisher’s] circulation [target] level and selling as many copies as we can,” says Botham.

But lawyers representing Penthouse founder Bob Guccione suggest the UK version has already fallen below the crucial figure.

“There is a threshold and our understanding is that they’re below it,” says Peter Woods of the legal firm Stephens Innocent.

The wrangle began when Guccione, the founder of the magazine, announced plans to bring a rival US version of the magazine to the UK in October. The import is the “tame” North American edition, as the official US edition was considered too hardcore for the UK market.

N&S failed to win an injunction preventing Guccione’s company from distributing here. But the company is committed to defending its UK franchise contract, which has at least five years to run.

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