Hugh Hefner died of cardiac arrest and respiratory failure after contracting septicema — a blood infection — and drug-resistant e. coli, according to his death certificate from the Los Angeles Department of Public Health.
The Blast first reported the news.
Hefner suffered from a long-term back condition that limited his mobility. His former girlfriend Barbi Benton previously told PEOPLE she last saw him six months ago and noticed that his memory was “fading” — he admitted to being “in poor health.”
Both lauded and criticized over the span of his revolutionary career, the trailblazing media icon founded Playboy magazine in 1953, creating an empire build on the idea of sexual liberation.
“He was an American hero. A pioneer. A kind and humble soul who opened up his life and home to the world,” Crystal, 91, told PEOPLE exclusively. “I felt how much he loved me. I loved him so much. I am so grateful. He gave me life. He gave me direction. He taught me kindness. I will feel eternally grateful to have been by his side, holding his hand, and telling him how much I love him. He changed my life, he saved my life. He made me feel loved every single day. He was a beacon to the world, a force unlike anything else. There never has and never will be another Hugh M. Hefner.”
- For more on the late Hugh Hefner and his legacy, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
As Benton told PEOPLE, “he said he was looking forward to laying next to the gal who kicked off Playboy.”