Bob Guccione, who founded Penthouse magazine and built an adult-entertainment empire, died yesterday in Plano, Texas, the Associated Press reported, citing a statement from his family. He was 79.
Guccione died at Plano Specialty Hospital after combating cancer, according to the AP.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1930, Guccione started Penthouse in the mid-1960s. By the 1980s, he had created a $300 million media business and Penthouse had a circulation of 4.7 million, according to the New York Times.
Marc Bell, chief executive officer of FriendFinder Networks Inc., which now publishes Penthouse and runs adult websites, called the death “very sad” in an e-mailed statement. The company plans to release a statement today, he said.
Penthouse’s first issue hit newsstands in the U.K. in 1965 and went on sale in the U.S. in 1969, according to Biography.com. The magazine challenged the popularity of Playboy, a men’s magazine that had gained widespread following, by featuring photos and content that were intended to be more explicit and provocative.
Guccione was once an altar boy in the Catholic Church who spent several months in a seminary before dropping out, according to Biography.com. He harbored dreams of becoming an artist before beginning a career in media, the site says.
Penthouse sparked controversy in 1984 by publishing nude photos of Vanessa Williams, the first black woman crowned Miss America. Williams relinquished the title after the issue was released.
In 2000, the magazine ran an interview with and nude pictures of Paula Jones, the former Arkansas state employee who accused President Bill Clinton of sexual harassment. In March 2008, Penthouse offered Ashley Alexandra Dupre, the prostitute who was paid $4,300 to have sex with then-New York governor Eliot Spitzer, the chance to pose on its Web site, host a video chat or take part in a live Web-cam session.