Penthouse Magazine Founder Bob Guccione Dies at 79

PLANO, Texas — Penthouse founder Bob Guccione died today after a long battle with lung cancer. He was 79.

Guccione launched Penthouse in 1965 in England, building it into one of the world’s most popular magazines for men. He got the idea of Penthouse as a cartoonist on The London American, an American weekly newspaper, targeting the magazine to “regular guys.”

Penthouse became a great success, and became well known for its investigative reporting as well as its its pictorials of gorgeous women wearing nothing.

In its early days, the magazine operated on a shoe-string budget with Guccione himself photographing most of the models for the magazine.

His plan was to get the magazine business to generate an income stream that would enable him to devote more time to his first love, painting.

At one point in the 1980s, Penthouse magazine's circulation was set at more than but 4 million worldwide, but over time that eroded. Penthouse reported circulation of 178,000 in the past 12 months.

Penthouse in 2004 was sold in a bankruptcy sale and, later, its properties were acquired by FriendFinder Networks Inc.

Steven Hirsch, co-founder and co-chairman of adult industry leader Vivid Entertainment said that Guccione “was a true innovator and his magazines reflected his wonderful artistic sensibility.”

“He paved the way for adult entertainment to become acceptable to mainstream America, and companies like Vivid have followed the path he laid out,” Hirsch said.

“He was without parallel in his art direction of Penthouse and succeeded in balancing portfolios of beautiful women with exciting editorial content. It was an act that was very hard to follow and no one succeeded as well as he did."

Guccione had numerous personal and business enthusiasms, as well, including an ill-fated attempt to create the $150 million Penthouse Boardwalk Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City.

Guccione and his third wife, Kathy Keeton, who died in 1997, launched several other magazines, including Longevity, Viva and Omni. He also produced or financed several motion pictures, including “Caligula,“ “Chinatown” and “The Longest Yard.”

Guccione also was a world-renowned art collector. His collection, which was displayed on the walls of his New York City mansion and a country home in Staatsburg, N.Y., included works by Modigliani, Picasso, Botticelli, El Greco, Durer, Chagall, Dali and Degas. The Guccione art collection was sold by Sotheby's in 2002.

Robert Charles Joseph Edward Sabatini "Bob" Guccione was born in Brooklyn on Dec. 17, 1930, into a large family of Sicilian immigrants headed by his accountant father.

He was raised in Bergenfield, N.J., and attended the Blair Academy preparatory school. His consuming interest was painting.

Guccione married for the first time before the age of 20, and had his first child, Tonina. He then moved to Europe to pursue his passion as a painter and while there he befriended and painted with Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.

He traveled widely and became friends with William Burroughs and other ex-patriot American writers. After marrying his second wife, he had four more children, Bob Jr., Nina, Tony and Nick.

Guccione passed away at Plano Specialty Hospital in Plano, Texas, according to his fourth wife, April Dawn Warren Guccione, who he married in 2006.