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Playboy founder Hugh Hefner dies at 91

FILE - In this Nov. 4, 2010, file photo, Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner poses for photos at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles. The Playboy Mansion is up for sale but longtime resident Hefner wants to stay put. Playboy Enterprise announced the West Los Angeles estate, the backdrop of many film shoots and wild parties, was listed on Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, for $200 million. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy magazine and star of E! reality show "The Girls Next Door," died Wednesday at the age of 91, according to a statement by Playboy Enterprises.

“Hugh M. Hefner, the American icon who in 1953 introduced the world to Playboy magazine and built the company into one of the most recognizable American global brands in history, peacefully passed away today from natural causes at his home, The Playboy Mansion, surrounded by loved ones,” a spokesperson for Hefner said in a statement to PEOPLE.

Born on April 9, 1926, Hefner launched Playboy Enterprises, Inc., in 1953 -- the same year as the namesake magazine's first edition, featuring a nude Marilyn Monroe.

He would go on to launch TV and film companies; finance documentaries; and preside over the Hollywood social scene from his perch in his empire's namesake mansion.

“My father lived an exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer and a leading voice behind some of the most significant social and cultural movements of our time in advocating free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom. He defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand, one of the most recognizable and enduring in history. He will be greatly missed by many, including his wife Crystal, my sister Christie and my brothers David and Marston, and all of us at Playboy Enterprises,” Cooper Hefner, chief creative officer of Playboy Enterprises and Hefner's son, said in a statement.

After divorce from his first wife Mildred Williams -- with whom he shared daughter Christie and son David -- Hefner was public about sharing his sexual encounters with numerous women.

He purchased the legendary Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles in 1971 -- set of the six-season E! reality series documenting the lives of the Playmates and their relationship with Hefner -- and had lived there ever since.

Hefner suffered a stroke in 1985, causing his daughter to take on greater responsibility at Playboy; she would go on to serve as CEO for more than 20 years.

Four years later, he married second wife Kimberley Conrad; the pair had two children together, sons Marston Glenn and Cooper Bradford, before divorcing in 2010.

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