THE founder of Playboy, Hugh Hefner, has died, the iconic brand has confirmed.
In a tweet on its official channel Playboy said Mr Hefner, also the star of the E! reality TV series The Girls Next Door, died today at the age of 91.
Born Hugh Marston Hefner on April 9, 1926 in Chicago, Hefner introduced America to the world of Playboy in December 1953 and ever since, it has been one of the most recognisable brands in the world.
The first ever issue of Playboy featured a nude Marilyn Monroe on the cover.
A statement from Playboy said Mr Hefner died "peacefully" and "from natural causes" at The Playboy Mansion. He was "surrounded by loved ones".
Mr Hefner is survived by his wife Crystal, 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, Playboy said.
A statement from Mr Hefner's son, Cooper, said his father "lived an exceptional and impactful life" and credited him for "advocating free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom".
Discussing Playboy's inconic bunny logo in a 1967 interview, he said: "The rabbit, the bunny, in America has a sexual meaning; and I chose it because it's a fresh animal, shy, vivacious, jumping - sexy."
Hefner purchased the Playboy Mansion in 1971 where he relocated and lived until his passing. Throughout his time at the mansion, Hefner famously housed multiple young women known as "Bunnies". The most famous of the Girls Next Door are Hefner's former girlfriends, Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt and Kendra Wilkinson. The reality show, known in Australia as Girls of the Playboy Mansion, followed the lives of the Playmates and their relationships with Hefner - and more crucially, each other.
In 2015 Madison told news.com.au her time at the mansion was "kind of scary. I didn't want to be there".
Raise a glass of scotch up for #HughHefner tonight. An American original. RIP.— Kevin Connors (@kevconnorsespn) September 28, 2017
"I was seeing his true colours. I felt like I couldn't really make excuses for him anymore. I didn't want to be there."
Hefner's Playboy fortune sits at an estimated $43 million. His marriage to Crystal Harris, six decades his junior, in 2012, is his third.
"In my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined a sweeter life," he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2011.
More to come ...
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