From the look of it, the corporation seems to be financially healthy and thriving, with dozens of entities spread over ten European nations. Looks more like a department store of consumer products, up until then deprived to the communist block. Also included in their portfolio are Palmer’s and Elizabeth Arden fashion and beauty products. A far cry from really creating a high quality magazine. But I realize that for any successful entrepreneur like Rolf Dolina, everything is a “product”, as it is for our group President William Stokkan. I remember when International Publishing was absorbed by Bill’s Licensing and Merchandizing division, me often chiding him that magazines don’t have customers, they have readers. He would smirk and say, whatever! And yet, smart enough to know the difference.

For the businessmen aspiring to be publishers, the thinking must go; They can find some good translators, sign up with a printing company and distributors and voila! Other details are just logistics. That is, until they meet me do they realize that you can’t make a successful local edition of any magazine just by translating the content. Unlike other products, it doesn’t come pre-produced. That they really need to create it issue by an issue of their own, month after month, for which they need an entire editorial staff, advertising and distribution arms.

Ditto, the small independent publishers. Even though they do have some idea of what sort of infra-structure making of a magazine takes. And still they think soon as they put Playboy logo on the cover, it should fly off the newsstands like the pigeons off Piazza San Marcos in Venice. Suddenly it would become their flagship and above all they would be known as the publishers of the local edition of PlayboyHugh M. Hefner reincarnate of their countries.

Up until the opening up of the previously closed markets of the eastern Europe, Playboy had signed up with the major local publishers, some even larger corporations than PEI in Chicago. Once the agreement was signed, they would have a team devoted exclusively to Playboy, and one more title would be absorbed into their wider network of other publications. Not so with the emerging markets such as Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland – the first of the three viable eastern European markets. There are no established publishers for us to hook up with. There is no tradition of free journalism. The people with some professional knowledge of the media had emerged from the state’s propaganda machinery who worked within the stringent constraints of communism. The field is wide open to anyone who wants to explore. Suddenly there are small time hustlers with BIG ideas. Some of them, serious contenders, others without a clue.

And then there are the Western entrepreneurs – the expats returning home and some like Rolf Dolina, well established businessmen across the driving distances of the Eastern borders. Rolf is already doing business in several of those countries and is the go getter – the kind who grabs an opportunity when he sees one. And he knows how to make and cultivate contacts. He is a quick study and learns ropes incredibly fast. Never mind the product. In India, they would call him sub bunder ka vepari – the trader of every port. He is smart, shrewd and calculating, not to mention, charming. Making money is his passion and of many business cards he carries, the one of them is an illustration of the rooster just having settled his hen in the process of laying eggs, turning around and chasing another chick before she gets away. The tag line at the bottom says: always ready for a new business.

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