Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner has died at the age of 91.
According to Playboy Enterprises Inc, Hugh Hefner passed away peacefully at home in Los Angeles, from natural causes.
Hugh Hefner began publishing Playboy in his kitchen in 1953. It became the largest-selling men’s magazine in the world, shifting 7 million copies a month at its peak.
His son, Cooper Hefner, said he would be “greatly missed by many”.
Cooper Hefner paid tribute to his father’s “exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer,” and called him an advocate for free speech and civil rights.
Playboy magazine made Hugh Hefner a multi-millionaire, spawning a business empire that included casinos and nightclubs.
The first edition featured a set of photographs of Marilyn Monroe that Hugh Hefner had bought for $200. They had originally been shot for a 1949 calendar.
The silk pyjama-clad mogul became famous for his hedonism, dating and marrying Playboy models. In his later years he threw decadent parties at the luxurious Playboy mansion in Los Angeles.
“I am a kid in a candy store,” Hugh Hefner famously said.
“I dreamed impossible dreams, and the dreams turned out beyond anything I could possibly imagine. I’m the luckiest cat on the planet.”
From 2005-2010, a reality TV show called “The Girls Next Door” showcased Hugh Hefner’s lifestyle – and the harem of young blonde women who shared it.
In 2012, aged 86, Hugh Hefner married his third wife Crystal Harris – who was 60 years his junior.
Announcing its founder’s death, Playboy tweeted on September 28: “American Icon and Playboy Founder, Hugh M. Hefner passed away today. He was 91. #RIPHef”
The magazine’s most significant interviewees included civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., John Lennon, and Fidel Castro.
Its huge sales were certainly driven by glossy color pictures of “playmates”, but it also developed a reputation for fine writing, with Norman Mailer, Kingsley Amis, Kurt Vonnegut, James Baldwin, Vladimir Nabokov and Ray Bradbury among its contributors.
Their contributions allowed men to say they did not buy the magazine only for the pictures.
President Donald Trump appeared on the cover in March 1990, with the tag-line: “Nice magazine, want to sell it?”
In the 1980s, Playboy‘s circulation decline, and Hugh Hefner himself suffered a stroke in 1985.
His daughter Christie took over Playboy Enterprises four years later, and Hugh Hefner retreated to his mansion, living with a bevy of women. Cooper Hefner took on a major role in the company in 2014 after Christie stepped down in 2009.
Last year, a neighbor of Hugh Hefner bought the Playboy mansion for $100 million, but agreed Hefner could continue to live there until he died.