CHICAGO -- Restaurateur Arnold ''Arnie" Morton, who founded the chain of steakhouses that bear his name and helped launch the first Playboy Club, has died at the age of 83.
Mr. Morton, who had Alzheimer's disease and cancer, died Saturday at a nursing home in Deerfield, his family said.
''He's a restaurant legend," said Grant DePorter, president of Harry Caray's Restaurant in Chicago. ''A lot of restaurateurs in the Chicago area started with Arnie."
Mr. Morton's first restaurant, Walton Walk, opened in the 1950s and paved the way for his partnership with Hugh Hefner and Victor Lownes and the Playboy Club they opened in 1960.
''They were the inspiration for a lot of what has come about since then, in trying to combine excellent food and beverages with the wonderful entertainment aspect," said Christine Hefner, chairwoman of Playboy Entertainment.
Mr. Morton left Playboy in the early 1970s and ran several nightspots, then opened his first Morton's steakhouse in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood in 1978.
That first Morton's struggled initially, said former partner Klaus Fritsch. ''Then one night, Frank Sinatra came in after a concert, the press found out about it, and the place went up like a rocket."
Mr. Morton sold his steakhouses in the late 1980s, and there are now 65 worldwide.
In 1980, Mr. Morton joined several other restaurant owners and then-Mayor Jane Byrne for the first Taste of Chicago, the summer food festival that now attracts hundreds of thousands of people.
''He was a trailblazing entrepreneur and a great Chicagoan," said Mayor Richard Daley. ''He'll be missed."
Mr. Morton leaves his wife, four daughters, two sons, a brother, and 13 grandchildren.