As the founder of Playboy magazine, which would eventually become the most successful men’s magazine in the world and an iconic symbol in the 60s sexual revolution, it’s no surprise that Hugh Hefner accumulated a large sum of money over the course of his accomplished life. Recent estimates suggest the businessman had an estimated net worth of about $50 million at the time of his death.
Hefner passed away peacefully at his home near Beverly Hills on Wednesday with loved ones at his side. He was 91.
Along with founding the magazine, Hefner was a civil rights activist. In 1961, he bought back Playboy club franchises that refused to admit African American members, writing, “We are outspoken foes of segregation [and] we are actively involved in the fight to see the end of all racial inequalities in our time.” He also organized the Playboy Jazz Festival in Chicago in 1959; profits from the festival’s first day went to the NAACP.
Read on to learn more about Hugh Hefner’s net worth.
1. His Net Worth Was Reportedly over $200 Million at Playboy’s Peak
Hefner is said to have launched Playboy in 1953 after asking for $8,000 in loans from friends, relatives, and the bank. He, himself, contributed just $600 to the magazine’s premiere publication. The first issue of Playboy hit newsstands in December 1953. According to INC, nationwide sales of the first issue reached 50,000.
By 1971, Playboy was selling 7 million copies each month. Gazette Review reports that Playboy was making $12 million a year at the time– the equivalent of $70 million annually today.
2. The Playboy Mansion Was Sold for $100 Million in August 2016
The playboy mansion became famous in the 70s for its lavish celebrations. It was the epicenter of the LA glamour scene, and was visited by celebrities like John Lennon, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Cindy Crawford.
In August 2016, Hefner sold the famous mansion to 33-year-old Daren Metroupoulos for $100 million. Metroupoulos, the son of billionaire investor C. Dean Metropoulos and principal at the investment firm Metropoulos & Co, purchased the home under the condition that Hefner would be allowed to remain in the residence for the remainder of his life, according to the LA Times. The outlet reported that Playboy Enterprises agreed to pay $1 million a year to lease the property.
At the time he purchased the home, Metropoulos, who owns the Hostess Brands, already owned the house adjacent to the Playboy mansion. He has said he hopes to eventually combine the two estates.
The 21,987-square-foot Playboy mansion sits on over 5 acres, and was designed in 1927 by Arthur R. Kelly. It was acquired in 1971 for about $1.1 million, and was initially listed for $200 million. According to E! Online, the home has 12 bedrooms, 21 bathrooms, a theater, gym, and tennis court. It also has a zoo license.
3. He Had a Modest Upbringing
Hefner came from humble beginnings. Born in Chicago on April 9, 1926, he was the first child of Grace Caroline and Glenn Hefner, who were both teachers and strict Protestants from Nebraska. In a 2011 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Hefner said, “My folks were raised pure prohibitionist. They were very good people, with high moral standards — but very repressed. There was no hugging and kissing in my home.”
As a boy, he filled his time illustrating cartoons and writing. He’s said to have sold copies of his own typewritten newspaperfor a penny each. He also reportedly served as student council president. Speaking to the Chicago Tribune in 1994, Hefner said:
I had a very happy and very inventive childhood in my old Chicago neighborhood on the Northwest Side, between Oak Park Avenue and Harlem. The closest busy street to us was Grand Avenue, which led straight into the heart of the city.
In 1944, after graduating high school, Hefner served as a writer for a military newspaper in the US Army. He graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign in 1949 with a BA in Psychology and a double minor in creative writing and art.
4. Playboy Stock Prices Fell Drastically Between 2000 and 2010
Playboy reached its peak in the mid 1970s. Over the last 15 years, however, magazine sales have decreased dramatically, threatening the Playboy empire.
According to data from the Publishers Information Bureau, the magazine sold 765 ad pages in 2000, and only 311 in 2009. That same year, the magazine reduced its circulation schedule to 11 issues a year. In 2011, a leveraged buyout resulted in Hefner losing about 80% of his shares in Playboy, according to Coed. Four years later, the magazine’s circulation dropped to 800,000. According to the New York Times, it was outsold by only Maxim.
At the time of his death, Hefner owned approximately 35% of the Playboy brand and 100% of the magazine, according to Celebrity Net Worth.
5. He Has Donated Money to the Democratic Party, Film Schools, and Autism Research
While he made a great deal of money, Hefner also donated large sums to a variety of causes. In 2016, he donated $2 million to the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. Three years prior, Hefner and Jenny McCarthy raised money to fund Autism research.
A 2000 New York Times article reports that from 1990 to 2000, Hefner and his daughter, Christie, donated about $95,000 to Democratic candidates and committees.
In 2012, the founder was named the “Humanitarian of the Year” award by Angelwish, which grants wishes to kids living with chronic illnesses. A statement released by the organization at the time read, “All of us at Angelwish.org are thrilled to be the beneficiary of this amazing event thrown by iDonate Charity. Tens of thousands of children living with chronic illnesses will benefit from the funds raised on February 12th. We are especially excited that we will get to honor Mr. Hefner with our ‘Humanitarian of the Year’ award for all his charitable efforts over the years and for allowing us to include him in this celebration.”