A rep for Hugh Hefner revealed late on Wednesday night that the Playboy founder has died at the age of 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,” a statement to People magazine reads.
His son Cooper, 26, released his own statement. “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 said. “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.”
Despite his deteriorating health, the magazine mogul tried to put rumors to rest on Father’s Day, spending the holiday with Cooper and his other son Marston. The duo was all smiles alongside Hef, captioning a black-and-white photo, “Backgammon with the family.”
Fans shared their excitement at seeing Hugh in his signature silk pajamas on the social media platform. “It’s good to see your dad, he’s been quiet lately,” one follower wrote, before another added, “Like father like son.”
Last year, reports surfaced that Hugh was on his deathbed. Cooper quickly put those rumors to rest, telling E!, “He’s doing fine. My dad has always made the joke that if the mansion was your house, why would you want to leave?”
However, he did admit, “I think because he has stepped back from the day to day operations of the business, people have thought that his health was not very good. The reality is he has a really bad back — that happens when you’re 90 — and he is enjoying life at the mansion.”
Hugh with his son Cooper and wife Crystal in 2014.
Last September, Page Six reported that Hugh was down to 90 pounds and extremely frail. “His people are really trying to keep this under wraps,” a source said at the time. “You even have to sign a confidentiality agreement to go up to see him.” To add fuel to the fire, Hugh, who leaves behind his 31-year-old wife Crystal Harris, missed his annual Midsummer Night’s Dream party last year, which was hosted by his son instead.
His ex and former Girls Next Door star Kendra Wilkinson also revealed she was concerned about his “declining” health. “I worry every day you know that at that age and I’m not gonna lie, every day I open up my social media, I pray I don’t see what we think might happen,” she told E!. “He honestly is my family.”