HUGH HEFNER DEAD

Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy magazine and star of E! reality show The Girls Next Door, has died, PEOPLE confirms. He was 91.

Born Hugh Marston Hefner on April 9, 1926 in Chicago, Illinois to parents Grace Caroline and Glenn Lucius Hefner, the businessman died on Wednesday.

“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,” a rep for the Playboy Enterprises founder said in a statement to PEOPLE.

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,” said Cooper Hefner, his son and Chief Creative Officer of Playboy Enterprises.  

Hefner quickly rose to fame after the first issue of men’s magazine Playboy published in December 1953, which featured a nude Marilyn Monroe. The same year, Hefner launched media and lifestyle company Playboy Enterprises, Inc., on which he served as a board member until the time of his death.

Known for hosting its annual Playboy Halloween party, the Playboy Mansion sold to Hefner’s neighbor Daren Metropoulos for $200 million in June with the stipulation that Hefner was able to live in the home until his death.

In an August 2017 interview, Hefner’s son Cooper, who took over as chief creative officer of Playboy Enterprises, admitted that it was hard to watch his father get older.

“It’s tough to watch him struggle,” he told The Hollywood Reporter of his father getting older. “But I’m just happy it’s physical and not mental.”