The passing of Hugh Hefner leaves the future of the famed Playboy Mansion to a member of the business family that revived iconic consumer brands from the Hostess Twinkie to Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.
J. Daren Metropoulos closed a $100 million deal in August 2016 for the ultraluxury Los Angeles property and often X-rated adult playground where Hefner and Playboy Bunnies mingled with the rich and famous — and others who wanted to be.
The announcement of the sale, for half the listing price, confirmed that Hefner would be allowed to live the rest of his days in the mansion. Playboy Enterprises agreed to pay $1 million annually to lease the property, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Hefner's death Wednesday, at age 91, means the 34-year-old Metropoulos, who lives next door, may now realize his own dreams for the property.
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Metropoulos declined to discuss specifics of the mansion's future on Thursday, saying in a statement issued through spokeswoman Hannah Arnold that his thoughts were with the grieving family of an American icon.
"Hugh Hefner was a visionary in business, a giant in media and an iconic figure of pop culture whose legacy will leave a lasting impact," Metropoulos said. "I was fortunate to know him as a neighbor and friend, and I extend my deepest sympathies to his family."
However, Metropoulos dropped a potential hint at the time of the sale. He said then that he might eventually combine the mansion and its estate with the nine-bedroom, seven-bathroom adjoining home property. Records show he bought that property from Hefner and then-wife Kimberly Conrad Hefner for $18 million in 2009.
"I look forward to eventually rejoining the two estates and enjoying this beautiful property as my private residence for years to come," Metropoulos said at the time.
Representatives of Playboy Enterprises did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.
An online listing for the Playboy Mansion property by Beverly Hills real estate firm Hilton & Hyland says Metropoulos will be getting "the crown jewel of L.A.'s Platinum Triangle," located on five picturesque acres in the Holmby Hills area.
The nearly 20,000-square foot mansion was designed by Arthur R. Kelly in 1927 for Arthur Letts, Jr., son of the British businessman who founded Broadway Department Stores in the early years of the 20th century. Playboy Enterprises acquired the home from Louis Statham, an engineer, inventor and chess aficionado, in 1971 for $1.1 million, according to the real estate listing.
During Hefner's life, the listing said the mansion featured 12 bedrooms, 21 full or partial bathrooms and amenities that included a home theater, a wine cellar, a separate game house and a "free-form swimming pool with a large, cave-like grotto." The mansion is also one of the few Los Angeles private homes with its own zoo permit.
Hefner famously used the home to host costume parties and other gatherings. Some of the events featured celebrities ranging from comedian Milton Berle to film director Quentin Tarantino, Motown records founder Berry Gordy and many others.
The mansion events tamed down from X to PG ratings in Hefner's later years, when Metropoulos came to know him. It's unknown whether the businessman who closed the most recent deal for the palatial home will revive and carry on Hefner's partying legacy.
Metropoulos and older brother Evan are sons of C. Dean Metropoulos, a Greek immigrant and business turnaround specialist who partnered with Apollo Global Management to buy Hostess out of bankruptcy in 2013 for $410 million.
Metropoulos & Co. also revived Pabst Brewing, selling the beer company in 2014 for an estimated $750 million. Under Dean Metropoulos' leadership, the company also bought, spiffed up and resold other famous brands ranging from Chef Boyardee, Bumble Bee Tuna and Perrier-Jouet champagne.
Business success has brought the family head an estimated fortune of $2.4 billion, as estimated by Forbes magazine in its listings of the wealthiest Americans.
For his part, Daren Metropoulos served as a co-owner of Hostess Brands and helped shape the comeback of the company's iconic snack cakes Twinkies and CupCakes, according to a biography on the family company's website.
Metropoulos and his brother also served as co-CEOs of Pabst Brewing. Separately, he helped restructure the food conglomerate Pinnacle Foods. He got experience with iconic properties earlier in his career by overseeing a spa-and-hotel remaking of the Castle on the Hudson, a Norman-style facility that overlooks the Hudson River in Tarrytown, N.Y., a northern suburb of New York City.
Metropoulos attended Babson College and the University of Connecticut before joining the family business. A family spokeswoman told The New York Times last year that he didn't graduate, but instead dropped out in his sophomore year to work with his father.
The report also included approving comments of Metropoulos from Andrew van der Vord, the co-head of consumer retail investment banking at Royal Bank of Canada. He helped the Petropoulos family on the Pabst Brewing deal.
"If there is anybody who can make Playboy more interesting, more relevant, it's Daren," van der Vord told the Times.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Kevin McCoy on Twitter: @kmccoynyc
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