01/11/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Obama Victory Inspires Christie Hefner to Embrace Change

CHICAGO, IL -- Throughout 20 years of both ups and downs in the fate of Playboy Enterprises, Inc., company heir apparent Christie Hefner has accepted and symbolized change. Now that she's chosen to step down as chairman and CEO she's decided to embrace change.

The new year will see new leadership not only in the White House but also at Playboy, with 56-year-old Hefner telling the press that the company's renewed health led her to feel comfortable handing the mantle of responsibility to someone else starting January 31st, 2009.

"I wouldn't be able to step down if the company weren't in such strong shape," Hefner told CNBC's Larry Kudlow and Erin Burnett, after explaining her politically motivated reasons for stepping away from the bunny.

"Like many Americans," she told the duo, "I've been struck by the call to service that was the hallmark of the (Obama) campaign and I was an early support of Senator Obama, now President-Elect Obama, and I believe deeply in what he wants to do for our country. I'll be looking for ways in which I serve to be helpful."

Hefner's benevolent work to date includes creation of the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award, which pays homage to her father and others who have made significant contributions to protection of the First Amendment. The award has been presented to luminaries including Michael Moore, Penn & Teller, Bill Maher, Molly Ivins and James Wheaton. Additionally, Hefner was instrumental in helping raise $30 million to build the CORE Center in Chicago, which provides the only outpatient care available within the Midwest for those suffering from AIDS.

The junior Hefner leaves her position of power while her father's publishing and entertainment company continues to struggle for profit. Just this October, Playboy announced plans to cut 55 employees from the payroll and remove 25 currently vacant positions from re-hiring. Stock prices dropped to a historic low of $1.03 weeks ago, plunging from nearly $10 a year ago.

Upon announcement of Hefner's departure, stock prices surged to $2.04.

While the company searches for a replacement, Jerome Kern will take the helm. Kern, a board member since 2002, is president of Kern Consulting LLC and the former CEO of On Command Corp.

Kern observed that in spite of disappointments, "Under her leadership, the licensing group grew from insignificance to become the company's most profitable business," expanding its ventures from being those of merely "a domestic magazine to a global lifestyle and multi-media company."

Adding to praise for Hefner's years of dedication is her father, Hugh, who told the press that under his daughter's guidance, "the company today has more consumers and fans than at any time in our history."

Hefner issued a statement concerning her decision, saying that "Last month marked my 20th anniversary as CEO; just as this country is embracing change in the form of new leadership, I have decided that now is the time to make changes in my own life, as well."

-- Originally published on