After stepping down as chairman and CEO of Playboy Enterprises in 2009, Christie Hefner became executive chairman of Canyon Ranch Enterprises, a new division of the renowned wellness lifestyle company. She oversees the strategies and activities of this division, bringing the Canyon Ranch brand into new areas via media and business partnerships. Hefner joined the board of the Center for American Progress, the think tank started and run by John Podesta and is leading an effort to build collaborations between leaders in business and this leading progressive public policy not-for-profit. She is also chairman of the Columbia Journalism Review’s 50th Anniversary working to increase its influence and effectiveness both as a media watchdog and as an ally in the effort to find new business models for journalism.
Hefner was the longest serving female chairman and CEO of a U.S. public company and oversaw policy, management and strategy in all areas of the company for two decades. After working as a journalist for a year, Hefner joined Playboy in 1975. She worked in a variety of the company's businesses before being named president in 1982. In 1988, she was named chairman and CEO of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE)—listed international media and entertainment company.
During her tenure, Hefner recapitalized the company, making it the first NYSE corporation allowed to issue a second class of stock with disparate voting rights. She restructured operations and initiated the company's highly successful electronic and international expansions. Under Hefner's leadership, the company developed its profitable television business—the first time a magazine successfully leveraged its brand into television. Continuing the company's electronic expansion, in 1994, Hefner led the company onto the Internet, making Playboy the first national magazine on the World Wide Web. Playboy.com, which features original content as well as repurposed content from the magazine and television, is a profitable multiple-revenue business with e-commerce, subscriptions, advertising and online gaming. Hefner greatly expanded the leveraging of the Playboy brand via licensing. In 2008, Playboy generated close to $1 billion in global retail sales.
In her role as chairman and CEO of Playboy Enterprises, Hefner spoke to audiences around the world on the creation of brands and global multichannel marketing, the merits and benefits of developing and running a family business, women leaders and women in business, how to create a successful international business model, the ever-evolving media and its importance, First Amendment rights and their commercial impact and insight into the American consumer.
Hefner is a passionate advocate of freedom of expression, social justice and equal rights and opportunities for women. She is involved in many important community service initiatives for HIV/AIDS, First Amendment rights and women's empowerment.
Hefner has distinguished herself as a committed HIV/AIDS activist, dedicating time and resources to many AIDS-related programs. She spent four years as project board chairman for the CORE Center—a public-private partnership between Rush University Medical Center and Cook County Hospital—and raised $30 million to build this innovative clinic and research facility, which opened in Chicago in the summer of 1998. The CORE Center conducts clinical research and provides prevention education and outpatient care for people with HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases.
Hefner has been an advocate for First Amendment rights and, in 1979, created the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Awards to honor individuals who have contributed significantly to the vital effort to protect and enhance those rights for Americans. Since then, more than 125 advocates for First Amendment freedoms have been recognized with the award.
A strong advocate for freedom of choice, Hefner has promoted equal rights and opportunities for women in both the political and corporate realms. She was the first woman elected to the Chicago chapter of the Young Presidents' Organization and has worked hard to increase the number of women serving on corporate boards nationwide. As part of that effort, she has served as a panelist at Foley & Lardner's nationally renowned annual National Directors Institute. In 1991, Hefner was inducted into the Women's Business Development Center Hall of Fame for "opening doors and building opportunities for all women entrepreneurs." She was also on the advisory board of and was spokesperson for "The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Changes Everything" which sparked a global conversation about the consequences of women's shifting roles in the workplace and in society. Hefner is also a founding member of the Committee of 200, an international organization of preeminent women business owners and executives whose mission is to foster, celebrate and advance women’s leadership in business and of the Chicago Chapter of Women Corporate Directors whose mission is to continue to expand the WCD community through leadership, diversity, education and best practices in corporate governance. She also appears as a commentator on both Morning Joe and The Sean Hannity Show on FOX.
Hefner was born in Chicago in 1952. Elected to Phi Beta Kappa in her junior year of college, she graduated from Brandeis University summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and American literature in 1974. She is married to real estate developer and attorney William A. Marovitz, a former Illinois state senator.
Awards and Honors
· Harry Kalven Freedom of Expression Award, ACLU, 1987
· Inaugural Champion of Freedom Award, Anti-Defamation League, 2000
· Named a "Wonder Woman" by Multichannel News for "major accomplishments within the cable, broadband and telecommunications industries," 2000
· Received Vanguard Award for Distinguished Leadership, cable industry's highest honor, for longstanding commitment to the First Amendment rights of cable programmers and operators and for strong advocacy of workplace diversity, 2002
· Weizmann Institute of Science Leadership Award (with her husband, the Hon. William A. Marovitz), 2007
· Inducted into the Digital Hall of Fame by min, the media industry trade publication, 2005
· Delegate, Democratic National Convention, 1980 and 1992
· Family Business Council Leadership Award, University of Illinois at Chicago, 2003
· Named one of the "100 Most Powerful Women in the World" by Forbes magazine, 2005, 2006 and 2007
· Rainbow/PUSH Business Excellence Award, 2008
· Advocate of the Year, AIDS Legal Council of Chicago
· 2005 Red Ribbon Leadership Award, National HIV/AIDS Partnership
· HIV/AIDS Education Advocate of the Year, TVWeek
· Spirit of Life Award, City of Hope
· Corporate Leadership Award, AIDS Pastoral Care Network
· First female recipient of the Executive Leadership Award, National Society of Fundraising Executives, largely in recognition of her work on the CORE Center
· CORE Center named a critical educational program in honor of Hefner in 2006 called the Christie Hefner TORCH Fund, which will educate a new generation of HIV/AIDS activists
· Human Rights Award, American Jewish Committee, 1987
· Eleanor Roosevelt Award, International Platform Association, 1990, for her commitment to human rights and civil liberties in the tradition of the former first lady, a longtime IPA member.