LOS ANGELES — Charles “Mask” Lewis, co-founder of the mixed martial arts clothing company Tapout, died in a car crash early Wednesday morning.
This story first appeared in the March 12, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
According to the Newport Beach Police Dept., Lewis was driving a red Ferrari that spun out of control along with a white Porsche on a quiet stretch of the beachside community around 1 a.m. Lewis’ car struck a curb and then a light pole. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
A female occupant who was ejected from the Ferrari was later transported to a hospital, where she is currently in stable condition. Police didn’t confirm the woman’s identity.
Officials said the driver of the Porsche was Jeffrey Kirby, a 51-year-old resident of Costa Mesa, Calif. After fleeing the scene, Kirby and a female passenger in the Porsche were found a short distance away. Kirby was arrested for gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. The unidentified female passenger was arrested for public intoxication and later released from custody.
Lt. Craig Fox of the Newport Beach Police Dept. said officials don’t know if Kirby and Lewis knew each other or what they did prior to the fatal accident.
Though Lewis’ age wasn’t determined — a company spokesman said he was in his 30s — the entrepreneur has spent the last 16 years mastering jiujitsu while building a violent yet popular sport that spawned a reality TV series, clothing for men, women and children, a shoe line produced under license by Skechers and a mass of fans, including singer Mandy Moore. Tapout, based in Grand Terrace, Calif., is estimated to have annual sales of $100 million.
According to Tapout’s Web site, Lewis represented “the militant face” for the Tapout brand and lifestyle.
Tapout said it is in the process of setting up a memorial service for Lewis.