The Paul Raymond Publishing (PRP) group printed over 50 top shelf titles so much so that the timeline can become confusing. To try and unravel what was the UK’s biggest adult publishing house, I’m going to concentrate on their top six magazine titles and then we’ll fill in the rest from there.
But first off let’s look how it all began. Paul Raymond in the normal sense of the term was a not a ‘sex baron’, the sex magazines were a means to an end. His main line of work was property and the profits from his magazine empire built him one of the biggest property portfolios in London.
Make no mistake the profits from the mags were huge in one set of published accounts the balance sheet read something like, turnover 27 million profit 19 million, its not hard to end up owning a large chunk of the ‘Soho’ district of London when you’ve got that type of money coming in.
Paul Raymond’s first shot at the magazine business began with King magazine which was aimed directly at what Raymond saw as the biggest slice (obviously) of the pie; Playboy. However, Raymond soon realized that this market was more than just a magazine it revolved around being a playboy which Hugh Hefner embraced but this was not the lifestyle for Raymond so the magazine was sold to Mayfair.
In 1971 Raymond tried again and this time took over Men Only, a title long past its sell by date. He transformed the format of Men Only from being text based into a picture magazine but took his time to find his feet. At first the images were right at the cutting edge of what was considered to be decent and on one occasion a complete edition was seized by the Obscene Publications Squad and destroyed.
Raymond soon realized that there’s no point in publishing a magazine if the country’s two main magazine retailers, W H Smiths and John Menzies wouldn’t stock it, so the images were toned down to an acceptable level. Very swiftly from there Paul Raymond became the acceptable face of porn.
Now, here’s the masterstroke! In Britain in the 60s there was only one place to buy ‘porn’; Soho and still today if you mention Soho then that association still exists. What Raymond knew was the profits that the hardcore pornographers made were huge, which meant that to keep their shop in Soho they’d pay vastly inflated rents. Raymond concentrated on property in the Soho district and outbid all comers knowing full well that his tenants would pay almost any price to keep their illegal ‘tax free’ earnings rolling in. The other developers were factoring in to their buying price the cost of developing the property for the housing market. Raymond knew his market was already in position which is why today Soho has some of London’s best Georgian buildings.
In later years the council that controlled the sex shop licensing for Soho caught on to this cash cow and charged up to £400 a week to license a sex shop. That’s how much money was in the game! Today of course some shops are still stuck with vastly inflated rents on long leases yet the profits have dried up as the internet sucks up the dollars.
In 1992 Debbie, Raymond’s daughter died and from about that time he became reclusive and as a seller of collectable magazines I’d say you can start to see the demise of his magazine empire, probably because the accountants took over.
Paul Raymond died in 2008 and his heirs had no interest in the adult magazine market and why would you when you’ve got a property portfolio of over 500 million pounds. The business was put up for sale.
The hey days of the adult magazine market are long gone but it does make you wonder if Paul Raymond himself would have been still going strong, what future would he have seen with the internet?
Without a doubt the six biggest vintage collectable magazine titles belong to Paul Raymond. In selling order these are: Mayfair, Men Only, Club International, Escort, Men’s World and Razzle. These titles as collectable back issues outsell everything else by a country mile and all of them belong to the Paul Raymond stable of magazines. Each magazine has a ‘golden’ period that is similar in terms of length albeit that Mayfair magazine extends across two ‘golden’ time periods because its first golden period was under Ken Bound.
Some would argue that Mayfair has only one gold time line and that is under Ken Bound with his ‘signature’ panty clad bottom shot, but the circulation figures say that Paul Raymond held that market for a good while. It would also be fair to say when judging the collectable value of these 6 titles that one has to take into account the longevity of the title as in the main the longer the magazine has been published the more issues there are to buy.
If Kenneth Bound would have had the entrepreneurial genius of Paul Raymond then in my opinion Ken Bound would have beat Paul Raymond hands down. When Bound sold Mayfair to Paul Raymond, Mayfair was outselling everything. If Bound would have had the foresight to take Raymond on at his own game then I’m in no doubt that Ken could have come up with an Escort, Razzle or Men’s World of his own, but as it was he sold out and retired.