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Christie Hefner, the daughter of Playboy Enterprises founder Hugh Hefner, is stepping down as chairman and chief executive. ((Stephen Chernin/AP photo))

Christie Hefner, the daughter of Playboy Enterprises founder Hugh Hefner, will end her 20-year tenure as chair and chief executive of the company early in the new year, the company announced on Monday.

Christie Hefner, 56, will remain in her current role at the Chicago-based publishing and entertainment company until Jan. 31, and stay on as a member of the board until her replacement is found.

Director Jerome Kern will serve as interim non-executive chair.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune on Monday, Hefner, who joined the company in 1975 and was named chair and CEO in 1988, said she will not seek another executive position. She plans to serve on corporate boards, and appear as a speaker and television commentator.

She said her replacement will be a professional executive from outside the family. Her two teenage sons are not ready to take the company's helm. "That's a decade away," she added.

Hefner expanded the company, which her father started in 1953, from a domestic magazine publisher into a franchise that publishes editions in 24 countries, as well as cable television, internet, mobile phone and DVD divisions. It shut down its DVD business in the third quarter to focus on internet distribution.

But her departure comes in the wake of plummeting advertising and circulation for the company's flagship magazine, and its adult television and movie programs have lost ground to free content on the web.

Its stock hit a record low of $1.03 US a share a few weeks ago after trading at nearly $10 US a share this time last year. On Monday, however, it jumped on the news to $2.10 US a share in afternoon trading from a close of $1.75 US a share on Friday.

Hefner said the challenge moving forward will be to drive integration between Playboy in print and Playboy online. In the future, more content will be delivered online, she said.

With files from the Associated Press