Peter Stringfellow pays tribute to 'iconic' Hugh Hefner
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Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy magazine, died at the age of 91 five years ago on Tuesday. But leaving behind four children, three wives and countless Playboy bunny girlfriends, how was Hugh Hefner’s inheritance split and who got the Playboy Mansion? Express.co.uk explores what we know about the magnate’s money.
When Hefner died in 2017 – allegedly from sepsis brought on by an E. coli infection – ensconced in the infamous Playboy mansion, he was estimated to be worth around $50million (£46million) – only half the value of the mansion itself and a faction of his worth at his prime.
After founding Playboy in 1953 and putting over half a century of work into the brand, a combination of falling stocks and sold-off assets meant the editor-in-chief’s net worth may have been far more in his prime.
According to CheatSheet, at one point the original Playboy owned $250million (£231million) worth of stock in his magazine, alongside owning the $100million (£92million) mansion and a range of other income streams.
By the time of his death, however, Hefner had sold off most of what was his, including the rights to Playboy and even his own name.
In 2011, the editor-in-chief created a deal with a private equity firm to buy Playboy Enterprises, which also owned the mansion. This also meant that when the mansion was sold to Hefner’s billionaire neighbour, Daren Metropoulos, for $100million in 2016, Hefner didn’t get anything. The mansion is now believed to be used for corporate events.
CheatSheet reported that in the deal, Hefner was promised a $1million (£930,000) salary and would be allowed to stay in the mansion for an estimated $100 (£92) per year until his death. As part of the sale, Hefner also reportedly relinquished rights to the Playboy brand, his name, signature and likeness.
While this deal likely saw Hefner’s income tanking, his living expenses were also enormous, with numerous live-in girlfriends and his family to support.
His monthly expenses reportedly included $46,000 (£42,000) on food, entertainment and healthcare, $20,000 (£18,000) on alimony from his two ex-wives and $54,000 (£49,000) to maintain the mansion.
What was left of his multimillion-pound fortune was reportedly split between his third wife, Crystal Hefner, 36 and his four children Christie, 69, David, 67, Marston, 32 and Cooper, 31.
The Independent reported in 2017 that a particular clause in Hefner’s will would mean the beneficiaries would not receive a penny if they abused drugs or alcohol.
The entrepreneur had lived an extravagant lifestyle in the public eye, but had worked hard for decades to make it there. Hefner had originally started as a copywriter for men’s magazine Esquire but left on bad terms in the early fifties.
The writer left the publication in 1952 after he was reportedly denied a $5 (£4.63) pay raise, equivalent to $55.88 (£51.70) today after adjusting for inflation.
According to Biography, Hefner collected a total of $8,000 (£7,400), roughly $83,500 (£77,000) today, from 45 investors, $2,000 (£1,000) of which was from his own mother and brother, and launched Playboy Magazine in 1953.
Hefner’s father reportedly declined to contribute to his son’s enterprise as he believed magazines were an abysmal investment play.
Hefner reportedly originally wanted to call the magazine Stag Party, although its current content offering was never in dispute. Unfortunately, Hefner ran into trademark infringements with his original name and was forced to change the name by the pre-existing Stag magazine.
At the time, Playboy was a discontinued automobile company, but Hefner’s use of the name ingrained it into global pop culture.
Hefner was evidently unsure of his business venture, as his first issue in December 1953 did not even carry a date as he was concerned it may have become a lone publication.
The issue featured a nude Marilyn Monroe, using photographs Hefner had found which were taken a couple of years earlier. The magazine was an instant hit and sold over 50,000 copies.
Many originally dismissed the magazine as a pornographic publication, to which Hefner responded by vastly broadening the content to where the magazine is now equally now for entertainment news and interviews as it is for salacious images.
Monroe’s influence on the magazine’s success likely imprinted on Hefner as he purchased the grave plot next to hers in 1992 at the Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park.
Once the magazine had garnered him fame and fortune, Hefner himself became the face of the brand, becoming as well-known in his red silk robe as any of the models in the issues.
The magazine’s monumental success saw Hefner buying the infamous 70-bedroom mansion in Chicago in 1959. Word began to spread of Hefner’s lifestyle, featuring multiple live-in girlfriends and a wife next door, which captured the attention of E! Network executives and they created the reality show Girls Next Door.
Girls Next Door followed Hefner’s girlfriends, also known as Playmates or Bunnies, living in the mansion. Since his passing, countless former Bunnies have revealed their experiences in the mansion, claiming Hefner was a manipulative and controlling man and that the show didn’t capture their reality.
Holly Madison and Bridget Marquardt have been particularly outspoken, telling their side of the Playboy story and claiming the girls who were featured on the first season of Girls Next Door didn’t see a dime for their efforts.
The duo started their own podcast this year discussing their time in the mansion, Girls Next Level, where Marquardt, who was known to be one of Hefner’s top girls at one point, claimed that the coveted position made her life in the mansion “worse”.
She claimed his favourite Bunnies would not get their own rooms, having to stay overnight in Hefner’s room and were constantly “under the microscope”.
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