Bob Guccione, who founded Penthouse magazine but lost much of his fortune later in life on bad investments, has died, his family said in a statement Wednesday. He was 79.
Guccione died at a hospital in Plano, Texas, after a long battle with cancer.
Penthouse was a direct challenge to Playboy when Guccione debuted a U.S. version of the English title in 1969. The Brooklyn-born Sicilian, who as a young man considered the Catholic priesthood, often photographed the models himself -- though he had no formal training.
Penthouse made its mark with more sexually explicit photos and tabloid-heavy editorial content than its men's-magazine competitors; it also featured the soft-focus style that Gucionne preferred and perfected.
He held onto the position of publisher until resigning in 2003 amid a major decline in readership and revenues. A series of disastrous investments and moves -- including a Penthouse-themed hotel and casino and a nuclear power plant that was never built -- severely dented the personal fortune that afforded him a life of opulence.