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The iconic founder of Playboy has died of natural causes at age 91 surrounded by family at the Playboy Mansion, according to a statement by Playboy Enterprises on Wednesday. 

Founded more than 60 years ago, Playboy magazine was created as a niche upscale men's magazine, combining images of nude women with in-depth articles, interviews and fiction by a variety of well-known writers.

The magazine was reportedly founded with $600 and another $1000 borrowed from Hugh Hefner's mother. The first centrefold in the iconic magazine was of Marilyn Monroe.

Cooper Hefner, Playboy Enterprises' chief creative officer and Hefner's son, said in a statement: "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."

The younger Hefner added that his father "defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand, one of the most recognizable and enduring in history."

A statement said that Playboy magazine was aimed at more than just the market for nude images.

"Hefner took a progressive approach not only to sexuality and humour but also to literature, politics and culture," the statement said.

In addition to leading the iconic Playboy empire, Hefner also led free-speech battles in the US – fighting all the way to the Supreme Court after the US Post Office refused to deliver his magazine.

Hefner was survived by his wife, Crystal, his sons, Cooper, David and Marston, and his daughter, Christie.

RIP to Hugh Hefner, an iconic figure in history.

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