The Playboy Empire: Exploring Hugh Hefner’s Vast Fortune and the Will Rumor Mill

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The death of Playboy empire founder and notorious playboy Hugh Hefner (91) on September 27th brings an end to an era.  This era was filled with complicated gender politics, modern-day hedonism and of course, a multimillion-dollar brand.

As is the norm when any wealthy celebrity passes away, there will now be lingering questions about what will happen to Hefner’s brand which includes magazines, videos, websites, clothing, television channels and most famously his iconic playboy mansion. Here, In this post, GCE attempts to explore what will happen to Hefner’s company and vast fortune. Who gets what? Who will be tasked to run his company? What about his children, current wife, and many ex-wives?

As famous as Hefner was, a lot of the details about his personal life remain hidden. For the curious, what a person wishes to do with their property after their death gives the public a sneak peek into the deceased’s psyche.

Playboy published the first issue in 1953 featuring nude photographs of the most desired woman in the world at the time, Marilyn Monroe. The sophisticated nudie mag was an instant success. Hefner’s magazine undoubtedly contained a heavy streak of misogyny. Nevertheless, many championed his nude photographs as a powerful tool in the sexual revolution which was just beginning at the launch of the magazine.

Regardless of what one felt about the explicit photographs in the magazine, no one could deny the excellent articles, think pieces, social and political commentary that was peppered throughout the magazine. The mixture of sex, literature, politics and provocative commentary made Playboy an empire which generated millions.

In 2009, Hefner’s net worth was estimated at $43 million dollars. The sum was noted on paperwork he filed in 2009 as part of a divorce. At the time of his death, Hefner owned 35 percent of the Playboy brand and all of Playboy magazine. His global brand had an estimated net worth of at least $110 million, according to market research firm Wealth-X. Celebrity Net Worth also said he had $36 million in stocks and bonds and another $6 million in a joint account with an unnamed person. Hefner made about $100,000 a month from the magazine, with the rest coming from a pension and retirement, interest and other ventures, the site said.

However, in 2015 his legendary Playboy mansion sold for 100 million dollars. Currently, it’s also worth noting that the Playboy magazine has hit some financial snags. With the proliferation of online nudity and pornography at the click of a button, Playboy has seemingly lost its salacious edge. Even still, it was obvious Hefner remained a wealthy man although the public is not privy to exactly how much he was worth upon his death. It’s fair to inquire who now receives the playboy’s vast fortune.

At the time this article was written, the details of Hefner’s last will and testament have not been made public. However, what is clear is that in the past, Hefner has certainly crafted a will with extreme care. That is if tell-all memories are to be believed.

One of Hefner’s many girlfriends, Holly Madison wrote in her 2015 book Down the Rabbit Hole that she discovered a copy of his will after her and Hefner’s 2008 split.  She found it laid out on her side of the bed they previously shared while she was packing her things and preparing to leave the Playboy Mansion. Madison stated that the documents said that Hefner’s fortunes “would be divvied up starting with roughly 50 percent to his charitable foundation and the bulk of the remainder divided evenly between his four children: Christie, David, Marston, and Cooper.”

Hefner is survived by his 31-year-old third wife Crystal Hefner and his four children from previous relationships. Those children are Christie Hefner, 64, David Hefner, 62, Marston Hefner, 27, and Cooper Hefner, 26.  His younger son Cooper took over his dad’s role of Chief Creative Officer of Playboy Enterprises in 2016 and he oversees Playboy magazine’s operations. In January 2013, Us Weekly reported that upon Hefner’s death his fortune would be distributed among “his children, the University of Southern California film school and a variety of charities.”

Image via NY Daily

It remains unclear if his widow, Crystal, will inherit any money from her husband. In the same Us Weekly report, it stated that the couple signed an “ironclad” prenuptial agreement before tying the knot the previous New Year’s Eve. The magazine also reported at the time that Crystal was not added to Hefner’s will. If that is still the case it is likely that she will be left with nothing.

Interestingly enough, in 2013 four months after their marriage, the married couple bought a $4.995 million Hollywood Hills home. She is still listed as a co-owner, property records show. Therefore, it is likely that Crystal will be allowed to keep this home.

As previously mentioned, Hefner sold the legendary Playboy mansion in 2015. He sold the house to his next-door neighbor, Daren Metropoulos, a principal of the private-equity firm Metropoulos & Co. and a former co-CEO of Pabst Brewing Company. Surprisingly, the home was never technically owned by Hefner. Playboy Enterprises bought the mansion for just over $1 million 45 years ago and leased it back to him. He reportedly paid just $100 a year to live there under the arrangement.

Hefner did, however, have life rights to the property when he sold the property in 2015. This means he was allowed to live there for as long as he wanted, though he would pay $1 million a year to do so. Metropoulos has yet to announce his plans for the mansion. However, it’s probably a safe bet that the owner will keep the mansion as a part of the Playboy brand.

The fact that Hefner most likely had a will upon his death will no doubt save thousands in legal costs as well as potential infighting amongst family members, ex-wives and maybe even thousands of Playboy bunnies. In contrast, the legendary pop artist Prince neglected to leave a will. Though the impulse to control his catalog inspired fellow artists, it limited Prince’s exposure and hurt the value of his music. Now, because he failed to leave a will, his wishes are taking a backseat.

Both Prince and Hefner were rich and famous but all individuals’ families face the daunting task of what should be done with their deceased loved one’s property after the funeral.  The absence of instructions can make a time of mourning even more painful.  Therefore, GCE encourages everyone to consult with a lawyer concerning your last will and testament. It’s never too early, or too late to start.


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