Beverly Hills, CA – 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.  He was 91 years old.

Starting from his kitchen table 64 years ago, Mr Hefner’s uncompromising vision drove the creation of not just the iconic and groundbreaking magazine, but what has become one of the world’s most enduring and recognizable brands. In the process, Playboy became the largest-selling and most influential men’s magazine in the world, spawning a number of successful global businesses. To this day, the magazine is published in more than 20 countries around the world and products featuring the company’s trademarks drive more than $1 billion in sales annually.

“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, Chief Creative Officer of Playboy Enterprises.

Hugh Hefner with Son

After serving in the Army, attending college and working for a number of years in the magazine publishing industry, Mr Hefner became convinced that there was a market for an upscale men’s magazine.  By putting up his furniture as collateral for a loan and borrowing the rest from family and friends, Mr Hefner published the very first issue of Playboy in December of 1953.  The magazine was an instant sensation.

From the very start, Playboy was about more than just the beautiful women featured in its pages. Mr Hefner took a progressive approach not only to sexuality and humour but also to literature, politics and culture. Within its pages, Playboy published fiction by such writers as Ray Bradbury, Charles Beaumont, John Updike, Ian Fleming, Joseph Heller, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Margaret Atwood, Jack Kerouac and Kurt Vonnegut.

Besides being the creator and editor-in-chief of the world’s most famous men’s magazine, Hefner frequently used his platform and wealth to support various causes.

He was a longtime advocate of civil rights and free speech. His daughter Christie Hefner created the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award in his honour in 1979.

Hef was also an early proponent of marriage equality and other LGBT rights, speaking out on the subject as far back as 1955.