What You Need To Know About Hugh Hefner's Son

When Playboy founder Hugh Hefner passed away in September 2017 at age 91, the reins of his adult entertainment empire were handed to his son, Cooper, the youngest of his four children. In addition to receiving a chunk of his father's considerable fortune, the 26-year-old inherited the responsibility of moving the company forward. He's already sharing his vision for the future of Playboy

"My father lived an exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer and a leading voice behind some of the most significant social and cultural movements of our time in advocating free speech, civil rights, and sexual freedom," he said in a statement after his father's passing. Cooper has made it clear that he plans to carry on in the same spirit.

But is this international playboy ready for such a mammoth task? His 100,000-plus Instagram followers get regular glimpses into his affluent lifestyle, but what's Cooper Hefner like away from the beautiful women and luxury sports cars? Here's what you need to know about the Prince of Playboy.

He didn't plan to join the family business

Cooper and his older brother, Marston, (who was once considered co-heir to Playboy before he decided to go down a different path) attended boarding school as kids, but they would always come home to the Playboy Mansion on the weekends. After Hugh and the boys' mother, Kimberley Conrad, separated, Cooper moved into the house next door to the mansion with his mom and brother. That close proximity meant they could sneak into some of his dad's legendary parties.

"We used to live on Red Bull and vodka," he recalled during an interview with LA Weekly. "When we'd walk out to the backyard, that's just what we did." Despite his exposure to his father's lifestyle, Cooper didn't grasp the gravity of the family business in his youth. "I didn't want to work for Playboy as a kid," he said. "I didn't even understand the perception of it."

He started his own company

Join the ranks of the company he did, but being a part of Playboy wasn't what Cooper expected. The fresh-faced young man wasn't exactly among peers in the boardroom, and in 2015, he decided to step down after a huge row with the CEO. "I used to go to the board meetings until Scott Flanders and I had a big fight one day," Cooper told LA Weekly. "I just got tired of sitting in a board room and having 40-, 50- and 60-year-olds telling me what my generation was into. I was like, 'Why don't you just ask people my age?'"

Instead of moping about the feud, Cooper channeled his frustrations into launching his own media company. He had previously pushed for Playboy to have a geek culture vertical, but his ideas always fell on deaf ears. Free to go it alone, he founded HOP (Hefner Operations and Productions) which caters to the "cool geek" sector. "Playboy went too 'bro-y,'" he told LA Weekly. "It was appealing to the frat guy, instead of doing a better job of catering to my friends, the creatives and current tastemakers of this generation."

He brought 'buff' back

In 2016, Scott Flanders (who had replaced Hugh's eldest daughter, Christie Hefner, as CEO of Playboy) left the company, and a man named Ben Kohn was brought in to steady the ship on an interim basis. Kohn had some new ideas for the company that focused on quality rather than quantity. He was quoted (via The Hollywood Reporter) saying that the brand had "gone too wide and lost part of its aspirational quality" by "covering monster trucks and selling air fresheners." This was music to Cooper's ears.

Kohn brought Cooper back into the fold, and one of Cooper's first moves was to reverse Flanders' controversial decision to stop publishing pictures of models in the buff. "There was a lack of understanding of who we are," Cooper said, noting that the presentation, rather than the garments, or lack thereof, was the problem. "Creating something that resonates with my generation and the generation that comes after mine is how I'll measure my accomplishments."

He's engaged to a Harry Potter actress

Have you ever watched a movie or TV show and fantasized about marrying one of the stars? A man with as many connections in Los Angeles as Cooper is capable of making that fantasy a reality, as he proved with Scarlett Byrne. The English actress starred in sci-fi series Falling Skies from 2014 to 2015 and then appeared in The Vampire Diaries, but Harry Potter fans will remember her as hard-faced Slytherin Pansy Parkinson.

"Scout Willis was one of my closest friends growing up," Cooper told LA Weekly. "And at the time, she was at Brown University with Emma Watson, so I thought that was my in." Making contact was simple, but convincing Byrne to go on a date wasn't so easy. It took five long years of Facebook flirting before Cooper got his chance. Byrne agreed to meet him in Germany for ice cream. The two hit it off, and according to Us Weekly, he flew to London to ask Byrne's father for her hand in marriage.

The Brit recently posed for Playboy as part of Cooper's "Naked is Normal" campaign. "I'm very proud to be a part of the March/April issue of Playboy," she said on Instagram. "I penned a short essay along with my pictorial titled, 'The Feminist Mystique'. A big thank you to Playboy, the creative team, and Cooper Hefner for such a unique opportunity."

He hated The Girls Next Door

For many, the first thing the word Playboy brings to mind is The Girls Next Door, a reality TV series that ran for six seasons on E! between 2005 and 2010. It starred Hugh and his girlfriends: Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt, and Kendra Wilkinson. When the series came to an end, all three went on to host their own spin-offs. According to Cooper, the girlfriends furthering their careers came at the expense of his father's brand. 

"I remember how The Girls Next Door had become the largest explanation of what Playboy represented, which cheapened it," he told LA Weekly. "Like Playboy was just this guy hanging out with these girls. I was f**king horrified when they started shooting it. I remember looking through my dad's scrapbooks and feeling confused that a reality show was representing his company. I didn't want that to be my generation's perception of Playboy."

He's in the California State Military Reserve

Hugh served in the US military during World War II, and the Hefners are reportedly descendants of Plymouth Colony Governor William Bradford, a famous English separatist from the colonial era. The future Playboy founder served the country that his ancestors helped to shape, and according to Military.com he "won a sharpshooter badge for firing the M1 and made it through 'Killer College,' in which troops went through maneuvers while throwing real grenades."

Cooper has followed in his dad's footsteps by joining the California State Military Reserve, a unit that specializes in "homeland defense and emergency management missions." He posted a photo in uniform taking his oath on Twitter, along with the caption: "Proud to be an American but particularly proud to be a Californian at this moment."

He called the Trump cover a 'personal embarrassment'

Cooper endorsed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 U.S. presidential race and has repeatedly criticized President Donald Trump, particularly over the subject of immigration. Cooper called Trump's efforts to end the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) policy "absurd" in an interview posted to Instagram.

"First and foremost I have the utmost amount of respect for the office. Now, it's up for debate whether or not the one in office has respect for the office. I think that's why I have been very public and vocal about my distaste for him as a person and the way that he is leading the presidency." Cooper said. "As a Californian and as somebody who knows a lot of individuals who have actually come to this state who have chased the American dream, that one hits home." 

The video was posted just weeks after Cooper called out Trump in The Hollywood Reporter, claiming that neither he nor his famous father had any respect for the president. "We don't respect the guy," Cooper said. "There's a personal embarrassment because Trump is somebody who has been on our cover." Cooper likened Trump's America to the days of communist paranoia under President Dwight Eisenhower and even suggested that his magazine could be a guiding light. "Right now, as history is repeating itself in real time, I want Playboy to be central to that conversation," Cooper said.

He wants to run for Congress

Given how open he is with his political views, it's not surprising to learn that Cooper has an interest in running for office. "If I wasn't doing what I was doing, I would pursue a career in politics," he told LA Weekly in July 2017, confirming his allegiance to the Democrats. "I actually almost ran for Congress this past election in the 37th District. It's still something I want to do."

Cooper has been known to disagree with his father on occasion (The Girls Next Door being a prime example), but Hugh's advocacy of free speech is one of the reasons his son says he's so passionate about the political future of the nation. "One of the reasons why I respect my dad so much was that he fought for the First Amendment," he said. "He spent his life fighting for freedom of the press, freedom of expression."