Magazine publisher and 1960s sexual revolution icon Hugh M. Hefner has died of natural causes, the Hefner estate reported on Wednesday night. He was 91.
According to a press release by the family, Hefner passed away at the Playboy Mansion, “surrounded by loved ones.”
Hefner founded Playboy in 1953, and it eventually became a global business and the largest-circulated magazine in the world. Although it has seen circulation dips in recent years (and just returned to a format featuring nudity, after a short-lived stint attempt at removing those photos), the magazine is still published in more than 20 countries.
“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,” said Cooper Hefner, Chief Creative Officer of Playboy Enterprises. “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.”
Hefner also hosted “Playboy’s Penthouse,” and ran a chain of Playboy Clubs across the globe. Hefner was also a civil rights activist and first amendment proponent, winning a decision in the Supreme Court that allowed his magazine to be delivered in the mail. Hefner also staged the annual Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl, now in its 39th year, and in 1980 championed the reconstruction of the Hollywood sign.
Hefner found new notoriety in the 2000s, as “The Girls Next Door,” featuring Hefner and several of his Playboy Mansion playmates, became a hit reality show for the E! network. The 1960s Playboy clubs were also the setting for NBC’s short-lived 2011 drama “The Playboy Club.”
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, who currently serves as Chief Creative Officer at the company.