Hugh Hefner Net Worth At Death (Forbes) – How Did He Get Rich? Exposed!

Hugh Hefner Net Worth At Death

Hugh Hefner had an estimated net worth of $50 Million at death. He created the men’s adult entertainment magazine ‘Playboy,’ which played a role in the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Hefner built his controversial yet groundbreaking magazine into an international enterprise. He earned the majority of his income from Playboy.

Hugh Hefner’s groundbreaking publication Playboy revolutionized the adult entertainment industry. From the first issue, which featured Marilyn Monroe in December 1953, Playboy grew into a multimillion-dollar enterprise that mirrored its founder’s often controversial sensibilities. By the 1970s, Hefner had settled into the Playboy Mansion West in California, where he remained the editor-in-chief of the magazine he founded. In recent years, he has appeared in the reality television series The Girls Next Door.

To calculate the net worth of Hugh Hefner, subtract all his liabilities from his total assets. Investments, savings, cash deposits, and any equity he has in a house, car, or other similar asset are included in the total assets. All debts, such as loans and personal debt, are included in total liabilities.

Here’s the breakdown of his net worth:

Name: Hugh Hefner
Net Worth: $50 Million
Monthly Salary: $300 Thousand+
Annual Income: $4 Million+
Source of Wealth: Journalist, Businessperson, Editor, Actor, Film Producer, Entrepreneur, Publisher

Background and Early Life

Hugh Marston Hefner was born on April 9, 1926, in Chicago, Illinois, as the eldest of two sons to strict Methodists Grace and Glenn Hefner. Hefner attended Sayre Elementary School and then Steinmetz High School, where his IQ was reportedly 152 despite his generally poor academic performance. Hefner served as president of the student council and founded a school newspaper while in high school, demonstrating his journalistic abilities early on. He also created the comic book School Daze, in which the normally shy youngster became the center of his own imagined universe.

Hefner served as a noncombatant in the United States Army for two years near the end of World War II before being discharged in 1946. He spent a summer at the Chicago Art Institute before attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he majored in psychology. Hefner graduated from college in 1949, the same year he married his first wife, Mildred Williams. Later, he did a semester of graduate school work in sociology, focusing on Alfred Kinsey’s sex research institute.

By the early 1950s, Hefner had landed a copywriting job at Esquire magazine’s Chicago office, which featured literary works by Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, as well as illustrations by pinup artists such as George Petty and Alberto Vargas. When he was denied a $5 raise, Hefner decided to leave the publication, which had relocated to New York.

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Starting ‘Playboy’

Hefner, now on his own, was determined to launch his own publication. To launch Playboy magazine, he raised $8,000 from 45 investors, including $2,000 from his mother and brother Keith combined. Hefner had intended to name the magazine “Stag Party,” but was forced to change the name due to a trademark infringement with the already-existing Stag magazine. A colleague suggested the name “Playboy,” which was inspired by a defunct automobile company. Hefner liked the name because it represented high living and sophistication to him.

From his South Side home, Hefner created the first edition of Playboy. It was released in December 1953, but no date was given because Hefner was unsure whether a second issue would be printed. To help ensure the magazine’s success, Hefner purchased a color photograph of actress Marilyn Monroe in her underwear, taken some years earlier, and placed it in the centerfold. The first issue sold over 50,000 copies and became an instant success.

America was attempting to recover from nearly 30 years of war and economic depression in the 1950s. For many, the magazine was a welcome antidote to the era’s sexual repression. For those who dismissed Playboy as a pornographic publication at first, thoughtful articles and an urbane presentation quickly broadened its circulation.

Developing a Voice

The Playboy logo, which depicted a stylized profile of a rabbit wearing a tuxedo bow tie, debuted in the second issue and became the brand’s trademark icon. Hefner chose the rabbit for its “humorous sexual connotation” and for its “frisky and playful” image, which he cultivated in the magazine’s articles and cartoons. Hefner wanted to set his magazine apart from the majority of men’s magazines, which catered to outdoorsmen and featured he-man fiction. Hefner decided that instead of catering to the cosmopolitan, intellectual male, his magazine would feature more overt sexual imagery.

During the 1960s, Hefner promoted what became known as the “Playboy Philosophy” in a series of 25 editorial installments. The philosophy espoused Hefner’s fundamental beliefs about free enterprise and the nature of man and woman, calling for what he saw as reasoned discourse on the truths of human sexuality. It was an evolving manifesto on politics and governance. Hefner, on the other hand, never forgot that it was pictures of naked women that ultimately sold the magazine.

The publication took up a large portion of Hefner’s life and marriage. By the late 1950s, Playboy’s circulation had surpassed that of competitor magazine Esquire, with monthly sales exceeding a million copies. However, personal issues loomed. After having two children, Christie and David, Hefner and his first wife divorced in 1959. Hefner had many girlfriends as a single man and became known for his romantic, unpretentious presence. He also developed a reputation for being controlling and attempting to impose double standards.

The Golden Age

In the 1960s, Hefner adopted the persona of Playboy: the urbane sophisticate wearing a silk smoking jacket and smoking a pipe. He pursued a variety of interests and socialized with the famous and wealthy, always in the company of young, attractive women. As the magazine’s success grew, Hefner relished the opportunity to portray himself as the charismatic icon and spokesperson for the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

This was also the golden age of Playboy, as ever-increasing circulation allowed Hefner to build a vast enterprise of “private key” clubs that, among other things, were racially inclusive in an era when segregation was still legally enforced. (A documentary about Hefner’s civil rights activism was later nominated for an NAACP Image Award.) These high-end establishments were staffed by hosts known as Playboy Bunnies due to their scanty outfits consisting of rabbit ears and puffy tails. The Bunnies made a lot of money off of tips and were told to keep a professional distance from regular customers. The women were also subjected to stringent appearance requirements, including size.

Hefner’s Playboy Enterprises also built hotel resorts, started modeling agencies, and ran a number of media ventures over the years. Hefner hosted two short-lived television series, Playboy’s Penthouse (1959-1960), which featured Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, and Tony Bennett, and Playboy After Dark (1969-1970), which featured guests such as Milton Berle and James Brown. Both shows were weekly talk shows set in a bachelor pad full of Playboy Playmates who talked about various topics with Hefner and his special guests.

When author Alex Haley launched the “Playboy Interview” with jazz legend Miles Davis in 1962, the publication gained a reputation for serious journalism.

However, Hefner’s success was not without controversy. After an issue of Playboy featured nude photos of Hollywood actress Jayne Mansfield, he was arrested and tried for selling obscene literature in 1963. The jury was unable to reach a decision, and the charge was eventually dropped. Hefner’s or Playboy Enterprises’ reputations were unaffected by the publicity. In 1964, Hefner established the Playboy Foundation to aid in the fight against censorship and the study of human sexuality.

Challenges and Downsizing

Hefner had grown Playboy Enterprises into a major corporation by 1971. The company went public, and the magazine’s monthly circulation reached 7 million copies, resulting in a $12 million profit in 1972. Hefner also began dividing his time between two large mansions, one in Chicago and the other in Los Angeles’ Holmby Hills neighborhood. When he wasn’t at home, he was traveling the world in the Big Bunny, a converted black DC-30 jet with a living room, a disco, movie and video equipment, a wet bar, and sleeping quarters. The jet also included a circular bed for Hefner.

However, Playboy Enterprises experienced financial difficulties in the mid-1970s. The United States entered a recession, and Playboy faced increased competition from more explicit men’s magazines like Penthouse, which was run by rival Bob Guccione. Hefner initially responded by displaying more revealing photos of women in less wholesome poses and situations. Some advertisers resisted, and circulation dropped even more. Hefner then focused the company’s operations on magazine publishing. Playboy Enterprises eventually sold its unprofitable clubs and hotels and scaled back its ancillary media ventures. The magazine maintained its new photography standards and began publishing features such as “Big Ten Girls.”

Madonna, Kate Moss, Jenny McCarthy, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Drew Barrymore, Nancy Sinatra, and Pamela Anderson are among the female celebrities who have appeared in Playboy over the years. However, the magazine has been chastised by critics who object to its objectification of women and its overt commercialism. Gloria Steinem famously went undercover as a bunny waitress in 1963 for a two-part Show magazine article to show what female workers endured. Steinem’s exposé was later adapted into a TV movie starring Kirstie Alley in 1985.

In 1975, Hefner decided to make Los Angeles his permanent home in order to better oversee his television and film production interests. He got involved in the restoration of the famous Hollywood sign and was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1978, he founded the Playboy Jazz Festival, an annual event that features some of the world’s best jazz musicians.

Transitions and Other Projects

Hefner suffered a minor stroke in 1985, blaming it on the stress of director Peter Bogdanovich’s book The Killing of the Unicorn: Dorothy Stratten 1960-1980, which detailed the life and murder of a former Playmate. Hefner’s stroke served as a wake-up call. He quit smoking, started working out, and slowed down in his leisure activities. In 1989, he married his longtime girlfriend, Kimberly Conrad, and the Playboy Mansion reflected a family atmosphere for a time. Marston and Cooper were born from the marriage. The Hefners divorced in 2009 after their divorce was finalized in 1998. Kimberly and the two boys moved next door to the Playboy Mansion after their divorce.

Hefner handed over control of Playboy Enterprises to his daughter Christie in 1988, naming her chair and CEO. She was instrumental in directing Playboy’s forays into cable television, video production, and online programming, while Hefner remained the magazine’s editor-in-chief. Christie resigned from her post in January 2009.

While the magazine’s sales were down in a changing publishing environment, the Playboy brand remained a formidable entity in terms of global licensing opportunities. The iconic logo also made inroads into pop culture, as evidenced by its appearance on a chain worn by fashionista Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) in Sex and the City.

Hefner devoted much of his time in his later years to philanthropy and civic projects. In 1993, he established his foundation to launch the annual Sundance Film Festival Freedom of Expression Award. Hefner also donated $100,000 to the University of Southern California for its “Censorship in Cinema” course, and later donated $2 million to its film school in 2007. He also made significant contributions to the restoration of classic films, which was one of his great passions.

‘The Girls Next Door’

For his contributions to society and the publishing industry, Hefner received numerous honors. He was inducted into the American Society of Magazine Editors Hall of Fame in 1998, the same year that Steinem was inducted. He received the Henry Johnson Fisher Award in the new millennium and was made an honorary member of The Harvard Lampoon.

The Girls Next Door, a reality series focusing on Hefner and his girlfriends at the Playboy Mansion, premiered in 2005. Earlier seasons of the show starred Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt, and Kendra Wilkinson, while later seasons starred twins Kristina and Karissa Shannon, as well as Crystal Harris, who later became engaged to Hefner. True to form, the series was used to promote many of Hefner’s projects.

The 2009 season finale of Girls Next Door documented more changes in Hefner’s life, as Marquardt left the mansion and launched her own television series. Wilkinson quickly left to pursue a relationship with NFL player Hank Baskett. Madison had also left the mansion. She later penned the 2015 memoir Down the Rabbit Hole, which detailed Hefner’s off-screen machinations as well as her severe unhappiness while living at the mansion.

Third Marriage and Rebranding

For many years, Hefner reportedly had discussions with Hollywood studio executives about making a biopic about his life. At one point, director Brett Ratner was linked to the project, with several major stars named as possible leads, including Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Robert Downey Jr.

In December 2010, Hefner and Harris announced their engagement. In June 2011, the couple made headlines when Harris called off their engagement. After announcing their re-engagement in 2012, Hefner and Harris were back in the spotlight. On New Year’s Eve 2012, the couple married at the Playboy Mansion. Following the ceremony, Hefner, 86, tweeted, “Happy New Year from Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Hefner,” along with a photo of himself and his 26-year-old bride.

Meanwhile, Playboy was about to undergo a makeover:

Cory Jones, the company’s chief content officer, told the New York Times in October 2015 that he and Hefner had agreed to stop using photos of fully naked women. The change was part of a strategic decision to secure more advertisers and better placement on newsstands, as well as a reaction to the proliferation of internet pornography, which had made the magazine’s spreads appear out of date. The March 2016 issue of Playboy featured bikini-clad model Sarah McDaniel on the cover, marking the first time the magazine presented itself as a non-nude publication.

The change, however, was brief. It was announced shortly after Hefner’s son Cooper took over as chief creative officer in 2016 that Playboy would once again feature naked models. In February 2017, the creative director tweeted, “Nudity was never the problem because nudity isn’t a problem.” “Today, we are reclaiming our identity and reclaiming who we are.”

Cooper had also expressed his displeasure with the Playboy Mansion being put up for sale, but he had no say in the matter. The mansion was sold for $100 million to a neighbor in the summer of 2016, with the agreement that Hefner and his wife would continue to live there until his death.


Hefner died on September 27, 2017, at his Holmby Hills, California, home, the Playboy Mansion. He was 91. “Hugh M. Hefner, the American icon who introduced the world to Playboy magazine in 1953 and built the company into one of the most recognizable American global brands in history, passed away peacefully today at his home, The Playboy Mansion, surrounded by loved ones,” Playboy Enterprises said in a statement. “He was 91 at the time.”

Hefner purchased the mausoleum drawer next to Marilyn Monroe’s in Los Angeles’ Westwood Memorial Park, where he was buried on September 30.

It was revealed in late December that Hefner had left specific instructions in his will regarding his beneficiaries: if any of them became “physically or psychologically” dependent on drugs or alcohol to the point where they struggled to care for themselves, trustees of the inheritance had the authority to suspend their payments.

Further Reading

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