Hugh Hefner is undoubtedly a leader in the publishing industry, adored by women and admired by legions of men who idolize his hedonistic lifestyle and success. Although in the last decade his net worth and empire have taken a major hit, (according to Celebrity Net Worth, Hefner is worth $43 million from a one time high of $200 million due to Playboy’s stock losing 80% of its value and a costly divorce). He is still an icon of American success.
Hef’s Early Years
Hugh Marston Hefner was born on April 9, 1926 in Chicago, Illinois. He was a child prodigy, with a 152 I.Q. He aced grammar school and was constantly getting in trouble for drawing in class. Hefner started publishing at ten years old, when he created “The Pepper,” a neighborhood newspaper of news and cartoons. At 17, he enlisted in the Army, first serving as an infantryman and then as a company clerk. While attending the University of Illinois, he started “The Shaft,” a college magazine to which he contributed cartoons and articles. He tried to make a living as a freelance cartoonist, creating detective character “Gene Fantas, Psycho-Investigator,” but he was unsuccessful. Hefner always dreamed of starting a magazine of his own. In 1950, he landed a job at Publisher’s Development Corporation as a sales promotion manager. At PDC, he set himself the task of learning everything that one needed to know on the business of selling magazines.
Building the Playboy Empire
Hef fashioned himself as an entrepreneur, and wouldn’t be happy until he was doing a magazine of his own. He gathered notes, sketches, and rough layouts. With a mere $600 and a relentless drive to succeed, Hefner created his corporation, HMH Publishing Company. He attained the right to pose Marilyn Monroe nude from John Baumgarth, a producer of a pin-up calendar, and was confident that her iconic beauty would attract enough men to buy the first issue.
With the advice of Herbert Stamato, printer of That Toddlin Town, (a magazine that Hefner previously worked for) Hefner sold shares of HMH stock to raise the capital to fulfill the orders of newsstands who wanted the magazine. He got money from family and friends, then bought 18,000 shares at a penny a share, and sold them to whomever he could. In October 1953, the first issue of Playboy hit newsstands with Marilyn Monroe on the cover. In just two weeks, Playboy was selling strong.
The rest is history as the next four decades in Hugh Hefner’s life would be filled with beautiful women, radical success, wild parties, and much more. Hefner is still an inspiration to many budding entrepreneurs who are trying to build up successful businesses in the wake of the Great Recession.
Source: Brady, Frank. Hefner. New York: Macmillian Publishing, 1974. ISBN: 978-0345246622