Hugh Hefner, American founder of the international adult magazine Playboy, has died at the age of 91.

Hefner made his fortune after the first issue of Playboy (left) starred a topless Marilyn Monroe

Playboy Enterprises Inc said he passed away peacefully at home in Los Angeles, from natural causes.

Hefner began publishing Playboy in his kitchen in 1953. It became the largest-selling men’s magazine in the world, shifting seven million copies a month at its peak.

In his element: Hefner is surrounded by playmates at the Playboy Mansion in August 2003

Cooper Hefner, his son, said he would be “greatly missed by many”.

Hefner is survived by four children including son Cooper (pictured), who is the chief creative officer of Playboy

He paid tribute to his father’s “exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer,” and called him an advocate for free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom.

READ ALSO: PlayBoy Magazine To No Longer Publish Full Nudes

The silk pyjama-clad mogul became famous for his hedonism, dating and marrying Playboy models. In his later years he threw decadent parties at the luxurious Playboy mansion in Los Angeles.

He claimed to have slept with more than 1,000 women, and credited the impotence drug Viagra with maintaining his libido.

Photo taken on August 30, 1970 shows US Playboy Magazine publisher Hugh Hefner (top), his girlfriend actress Barbara Benton and other playmates arriving at Le Bourget airport with the Playboy jet
Hefner and his playmates travelled on Playboy’s “Big Bunny” jet during the magazine’s 1970s heyday

Feminists, and others, accused him of reducing women to sexual objects – if not de facto prostitutes – at the Playboy mansion.

But then there was also his support for racial integration and gay rights, along with a hefty dollop of great writing and agenda-setting interviews.

In short, he was a character more complex than tabloid editors allowed.

And in terms of sexual mores his early permissiveness – daring or shocking depending on your taste – now seems, if not quite quaint, then certainly not unusual.

In that respect Hugh Hefner was ahead of his time, for good or ill.

Courtesy of Daily Mail and BBC.