At Dartmouth, porn king alumnus led ‘ridiculous life’
By Marta Darby
Published on Friday, April 2, 2004
Old habits die hard. Bill Asher '84, a self-described party boy-turned porn king, is no exception.
Asher is the president and part owner of Vivid Entertainment, the world's largest pornography distributor. In 2003 Vivid's annual sales totaled about $150 million.
The government major credits much of his success to his time spent at Dartmouth -- but not for academic reasons.
"It was the overall education that I was after -- being with intelligent, exciting people. That's what prepared me best," said Asher.
Asher also credits "the rigors of the Ivy League" combined with the "work hard, play hard" mentality as playing a pivotal role in his many achievements.
Not much of an academic, the alum found himself in the Dean's Office at Dartmouth on multiple occasions.
"At Dartmouth I was an awful student -- wild, crazy and rebellious. It was a ridiculous life experience. I went many times in front of the Dean and finally explained to him that I was never going to be the kind of guy who was the last kid at night to leave the library," reflected Asher.
At Dartmouth, Asher was a member of Kappa Sigma, a now-defunct national fraternity chapter that was once located next door to Phi Delta Alpha fraternity on Webster Avenue.
"They were probably thrown out of national as a result of my many shenanigans," Asher said.
Asher played football his freshman fall and was a member of the rugby team until the end of his sophomore year.
Asher's fondness for the Big Green is readily apparent.
"Dartmouth must have corrupted me. It was really fun," joked Asher.
After graduating from Dartmouth in 1984, Asher worked for a few years before attending graduate school at the University of Southern California where studied music entertainment marketing and received his MBA.
But, once he had finished at the business school, Asher found the film industry on strike, forcing him to consider other options. For the next four years he worked with a restaurant company, before he "realized that it was time to find a career." At 28, Asher quit the restaurant business, jobless.
"Then I saw this job posted for Playboy at USC. It was perfect for me," recalled Asher.
Asher began working at Playboy's Beverly Hills, Calif., office doing finance and budgeting. He quickly worked his way to the top of the company. Within five years, the alumus was running the entire TV and video division for Playboy's West Coast operations.
At 35 Asher decided that the real money was in running his own business. He and a colleague from Vivid Entertainment bought Spice Hot, a cable network specializing in hardcore pornography.
"It was a more explicit version [than any of the other networks] and no one was doing it. So I thought, why not? People should get what they want," said Asher.
In its first six months of operation, the company took off, exceeding expectations. Two years later Asher and his partners sold the network for about $120 million.
After selling the company Asher merged with Vivid. Working at Vivid is like running any other large company he said. Asher has yet to direct any films, nor does he watch them being made or view company's the final products.
"What's the point of being in the [adult entertainment] industry if not for a sex and drug-filled life," he joked.
Currently Asher is in the process of opening three bars in Phoenix and Los Angeles. He is also launching a music network with Universal Music (the world's largest music label), Endeavor (an agent) and Shady Records (Eminem's record company). The new network will be similar to MTV but will target at an adult audience.
"It's totally uncensored, showing rock as it really is -- with all of the sex and drugs, not the stuff they play for 13-year-olds," explained Asher.
To Asher, his lifestyle is nothing out of the ordinary.
"If you remove the word 'adult' it's all normal," said the porn king.