The most powerful people in porn

Porn's Most Powerful

Dan Tuffs | Getty Images

While red hot stars in the porn industry come and go, the behind-the-scenes power players tend to lead more stable professional lives. But as the industry has changed in recent years, some of the most powerful people in adult entertainment have started to transition, as well.

Some of the names below may be familiar, but odds are you won't know them all. These are the people who generally prefer to keep a low profile, focusing instead on the bottom line.

CNBC.com spoke with a variety industry insiders, ranging from executives to stars, to get their thoughts on who the true power brokers in the world of porn are today.

—By Chris Morris, special to CNBC.com
Posted 20 Jan. 2015

Feras Antoon and David Tassilo

Mindgeek

The swift fall of Manwin CEO Fabian Thylmann, who was arrested on suspicion of evading taxes in late 2012, led to a power shift at porn's biggest company, which has since changed its name to MindGeek. And if there was a cloud of mystery surrounding the company before, it has only gotten thicker since then.

Few in the industry conclusively know who's running the company, but CEO Antoon and CFO Tassilo are the names most frequently mentioned. Manwin's not quite the powerhouse it was two years ago, but it still holds a vast portfolio, including the Brazzers and RealityKings collection of Websites as well as several adult "tube" sites (think YouTube for porn) as well as traditional film studio Digital Playground.

Michael Weinstein

AIDS Healthcare Foundation

Weinstein is likely public enemy No. 1 to most of the adult industry, but as president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), he has had one of the biggest impacts on the industry in the past decade. AHF has led the charge on making condoms mandatory in porn shoots in Los Angeles and has been trying to get the law spread statewide (though those efforts fell short in 2014).

While the industry has been fighting the bill, known as Measure B, since it was passed in 2012, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in December rejected the industry's argument that mandatory condom usage in films was a violation of freedom of expression.

Frank Koretsky

Courtesy Frank Koretsky

DVDs may not be the cash machine they used to be in porn, but they still bring in a hefty amount each year. Koretsky's International Video Distributors and East Coast News are the largest distribution companies in the porn industry worldwide. If a film is on a shelf at your local adult store, odds are it has passed through one of his warehouses. He has begun to diversify in recent years, with Baci Lingerie and OVO Lifestyle Toys. He's also a commercial and residential real estate investor and developer, with properties in Florida, Georgia, Arizona and New Jersey.

Derek Hay

Glenn Francis | www.pacificprodigital.com

Hay runs L.A. Direct Models, one of the industry's biggest talent agencies with some of the industry's biggest names as clients. He's also one of the leaders of LATATA—the Licensed Adult Talent Agency Trade Association—a consortium of agencies that's trying to weed out some of the more dubious smaller agents and act as an advocacy group for adult performers. Hay is known for his insistence that models show up on time and ready to work, a wrangling skill that can sometimes be tricky in this industry.

Ron Caldwell

Source: www.lukeisback.com

Credit card companies such as Visa and American Express don't want to do direct business with porn websites. Caldwell's company, CCBill, is an intermediary that lets people use those cards online. The Arizona-based company processes more than $1 billion in transactions per year in the U.S. and across Europe.

Ron Braverman

Source: DocJohnson.com

Sex toys continue to be one of the most lucrative areas of the adult entertainment industry, and there's no bigger name in the industry than Doc Johnson. Braverman is CEO of the iconic company, which employs over 500 people (including son Chad as chief operating officer) and has put out over 2,500 products in its 39-year history. While high-end toy companies charge $100 or more for their products, Doc Johnson continues to focus on the mainstream market and has kept the majority of its manufacturing in the U.S.

Laszlo Czero

@LaszloCzero | Twitter

As CEO of Jasmin (and its Luxembourg-based parent company, Docler Holding), Czero is one of the kings of Cam girls. His site is one of the largest streaming cam operations online, a position many envy, given the $1 billion-plus size of that industry. Jasmin operates on a pay-by-the-minute model, where customers pay models — sometimes for hours at a time — to talk or perform for them. Docler has interests beyond porn, as well, with several other holdings, including an online hotel booking service, an online payment system and a video production company.

Leo Radvinsky

B2M Productions | Photodisc | Getty Images

Radvinsky, like Czero, is another king of Webcams, but his MyFreeCams operates in a slightly different fashion. Models receive "tips" from fans and usually work in front of a wider audience. And it boasts tens of thousands of models. Radvinsky runs MFC through Cybertania, a holding company located in a Chicago suburb that describes itself as an internet commerce company.

Larry Flynt

Dan Tuffs | Getty Images

Arguably the most familiar name in the porn industry, Flynt is a rare porn power player who doesn't shun the spotlight. He has been an outspoken First Amendment advocate and supporter of net neutrality, noting that several online adult entertainment companies could be forced out of business without the rules. And while other companies have struggled with the industry's transition, Flynt has transitioned the Hustler brand into a retail, broadcast and adult novelty empire. And last year, he dropped hints that he's thinking about taking the company public.

Peter Acworth

Amanda Edwards | Getty Images

While the entire adult industry is hoping this year's "Fifty Shades of Grey" film is a hit, no one has more potential upside riding on it than Acworth. His Kink.com conglomerate focuses on fetishes, with a particular focus on the bondage themes the film will explore.

Acworth, who can be brutally frank, started the company as a Columbia University Ph.D. student in 1997. Nine years later, he purchased the San Francisco Armory for $14.5 million and made it the base of the company's operations. Last January, though, California's Division of Occupational Safety and Health fined Kink $78,000 for allegedly failing to protect its actors from blood-borne pathogens and sexually transmitted infections. Acworth's fighting the penalty but has begun considering moving his operations to Nevada as a back-up plan.