Just the kind of situations trademark sharks around the globe are waiting for. While Hefner decided not to put the month and the year on the cover of its first issue, sporting now the iconic black and white photo of Marilyn Monroe, for the fear that he may have to leave it on the stands for much longer, the copies of his pioneering publication flew off the stands like freshly baked soft pretzels at the Munich hauptbahnhof.
After the two mutually beneficial and highly successful back-to-back contract negotiations in São Paulo and Buenos Aires, my boss Bill (Stokkan) and I make a side trip to Córdoba to deal with the tricky business of trying to “buy back” our own trademarks. Something I have had only a limited knowledge of. This is our first trip together and being together 24/7 for several days has given us a unique opportunity to bond and to observe up close each other’s businesses. Now he has been our division’s head already for two years, but up until now he has left me alone with minimal of supervision and interference. Now he feels comfortable with the business of publishing and even so, he still leaves the details of making of the magazine to me, he has started to gingerly giving me his input into the business and the marketing side of what I do. Not only do I appreciate his invaluable input, but over the dozens of long drawn out meals we have shared, we have become more like partners in crime.
On our first outing together, he has brought his unique perspective and pragmatism to our two most delicate make it or break it negotiations his mantra. Let not the minimum guarantee become a minimum penalty. Both Roberto Civita in Brazil and Alberto Fontevecchia in Argentina are floored when Bill lays down the deals which screams WIN-WIN if successful and if not as much, Playboy would share in the risk. Sound fair?
After we’re done with the publishing business, we venture on to deal with the local problems of Bill’s core business – which is licensing and merchandizing of products bearing Playboy logo and other trademarks. That takes us to the second largest city of the country – Córdoba, 435 miles (700 kilometers) north west of Buenos Aires. It is the geographical center of Argentina and is proud of its colonial charms and the history. But from the little that we saw, I remember it to be dilapidated and dusty, almost a depressing town.
Before boarding the plane in Buenos Aires in the afternoon, we breakfast with Alfredo Vercelli of Editorial Atlántida, who has license to produce and market Playboy branded stationery in Argentina and the surrounding countries. We also touch basis with our local trademark attorney Julia Elena Tellechea over the lunch. Armed with her input, we land in Cordoba.
We are picked up by Carlos Rodriguez Pons – the holder and the king of Playboy trademarks in Argentina and its surrounding territories in the multiple categories, that exclude the magazine itself and other related publications and the paper products – but the list of other products he has registered is impressive. How well he is doing with them is questionable. But there are telltale signs in the car he picks us up in. It’s Mercedes Benz 350 SLC. Obviously, I barely manage to squeeze into the back seat of this what once must have been a fleshy sportswagen. Not any more. Soon as he puts the car in the gear, we hear the killer breaks – the metal grinding on the metal. The windshield has a major crack going across. For whatever reasons, he is unapologetic and oblivious to what we may observe. He takes us to his house. The furniture seems to have seen better days. The walls weather beaten and sun bleached. He shows us around his factory, the shopping mall he owns and a rental apartment complex. All of the entities are named PLAYBOY. He is the Mr. Playboy of the region.