Bob Guccione, the founder of Penthouse magazine, has died, reports the Associated Press. He was 79 and had been suffering from cancer..
Guccione took a more lurid approach than Hugh Hefner’s Playboy, opting to publishing more explicit nudes and more sensational letters, the story notes. That strategy worked and got him listed in the Forbes 400 ranking of wealthiest people, with a net worth of about $400 million in 1982.
His magazine also cracked the veneer of Miss America when it published nude pictures of Vanessa Williams in 1984, forcing the first black woman to hold the title to give up her crown, the article notes. Williams later went on to a successful career as an actress and singer. Guccione’s empire, though, lost its footing with changes in the pornography industry, as competition came in the form of the Internet and video, the article notes.
Guccione is also known for one of his biggest business failures, a $17.5 million investment in the 1979 film "Caligula," which was X-rated and shunned by distributors, the AP notes. Nevertheless, it eventually became the most popular DVD sold by General Media, the umbrella company that housed his corporate businesses, the article notes.
According to the story, "Guccione’s management style even sparked a rift with his own son, Bob Guccione Jr. In 1985, the publisher helped his son launch the music magazine Spin, with Bob Jr. serving as editor and publisher. After just two years, the two clashed over the direction of the magazine and the elder Guccione decided to shut it down, forcing his son to secure outside funding."
Said The New York Times’ in its obituary, Guccione himself began his empire "in London in 1965 with a bank loan, an idea and an accident. The loan was for $1,170. The idea was a new magazine with nude photos to outdo Hugh Hefner’s Playboy. And the accident was an old mailing list, so that promotional brochures with pornographic samples went out to clergymen, schoolgirls, old-age pensioners and wives of members of Parliament.
The outcry was huge. And there was a $264 fine for mailing indecent materials. But all 120,000 copies of the first issue of Penthouse sold out in days, and Mr. Guccione, a struggling artist from New Jersey who had been knocking around Europe for more than a decade, was on his way to being a tycoon."