Can a magazine man like Hugh Hefner really be worth much in the digital age? Especially when that magazine was known for nudity, which — if you haven’t heard — is in large supply on the Internet? Well Playboy founder Hugh Hefner’s death at the age of 91 shows that magazines may not be the business of today, but Hefner wasn’t really in the magazine business after all. Hefner was in the branding business — and the branding business has never been bigger. There is an elite subset of brands that are recognized all across the globe — Nike, Apple, Google leap to mind. Playboy belongs on that list.
Sure in the Playboy Magazine 1970s heyday, Hefner was worth a little more than he’ll leave behind — then his magazine was very nearly the only game in town, and he used to have the Playboy clubs to match. Even right up until the end of the 20th century — before most grandmothers had email too — Hefner’s fortune derived from a nearly monopolistic playboy enterprise that virtually owned the nude scene and a “sophisticated man” brand, such as it was. His 70% of Playboy in 1999 was worth more than $300M. Hefner died having sold the Playboy mansion last year for a reported $100 million — and he still owned a third of the entire Playboy brand. He had four children and a 31-year-old wife.