Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy, has died aged 91. “Hugh M. Hefner, the American icon who in 1953 introduced the world to Playboy magazine and built the company into one of the most recognizable American global brands in history, peacefully passed away today from natural causes at his home, The Playboy Mansion, surrounded by loved ones,” Playboy Enterprises, Inc. said in a statement Wednesday night.
Hefner was born on April 9, 1926 in Chicago, Illinois, and went on to become a millionaire after founding the influential men’s magazine in 1953.
Hefner’s son, Cooper Hefner, who is also the chief creative officer of Playboy Enterprises, said: ‘My father lived an exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer and a leading voice behind some of the most significant social and cultural movements of our time in advocating free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom.
‘He defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand, one of the most recognizable and enduring in history.
‘He will be greatly missed by many, including his wife Crystal, my sister Christie and my brothers David and Marston, and all of us at Playboy Enterprises.’
His widow, Crystal, 31, was the third of his wives, having married him in 2012. He had previously been married to Mildred Williams from 1949-1959, with whom he had two children, and Kimberley Conrad – 1989’s 27-year-old Playmate of the Year – from 1989-2010. They also had two children.
He’d also had a lot of ‘girlfriends’ who lived with him – usually several at a time – at his famed Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles.
Despite declaring that he had slept with more than a thousand women, Hefner spent much of his life ‘looking for love in all the wrong places,’ as he tearfully told The New York Times in 1992.
Hefner married Crystal – and took up a life of monogamy – in 2012 after briefly calling off the engagement.’Maybe I should be single,’ he said a few months later.
‘But I do know that I need an ongoing romantic relationship. In other words, I am essentially a very romantic person, and all I really was looking for, quite frankly, with the notion of marriage was continuity and something to let the girl know that I really cared.’
The year before their marriage, he had mused: ‘I never really found my soulmate.’
Hefner is survived by his wife Crystal and four grown children: Christie, who served as CEO of Playboy Enterprise for more than 20 years; David, Marston and Cooper, the latter of whom currently serves as Chief Creative Officer at the company.
Celebrities have also taken to social media to pay tribute to the Icon.