These are the twilight years of a curious late-20th-century business phenomenon: the porn barons. These buccaneers built corporate empires that could never be really legitimate: there was the perennial issue of moral turpitude. Yet margins and cash flow were prodigious – because demand was immense, costs were modest, pricing was elastic, competition was limited – and, after all, vice usually pays.
The pornography industry sprang up on the back of the permissive culture of the 1960s. It boomed into the 1970s, spreading from saucy magazines into new product areas such as videos and sex shops. But in recent years the incorporation of raunch culture into the mainstream and the encroachment of the internet have seriously undermined the old-style porn kingdoms.