Charles “Mask” Lewis Jr. (1963-2009) – Businessman
Charles Lewis was a businessman, promoter, and entertainer. Known by his nickname “Mask,” because of stripes of face paint he frequently used, Lewis founded the TapouT clothing line in 1997, which eventually became a multi-million-dollar clothing company. Lewis and his two friends began the company by selling mixed martial arts apparel from the back of their Mustang. In 2007, the company of $22.5 million in revenue, with a 2009 target of $225 million. That same year, Lewis and his fellow promoters starred in TapouT, a cable channel reality television series that followed up-and-coming mixed martial arts fighters. Mask was posthumously inducted into the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Hall of Fame in July 2009, becoming the first and only non-fighter to enter the UFC Hall of Fame.
Lewis’ successful life was short lived, when he died suddenly in a car crash. Lewis did not leave a Will, but he did leave behind two children who are the only heirs to a multimillion-dollar estate. Soon after Lewis’ death, Orange County Public Administrator/Public Guardian John S. Williams moved quickly to take control of Lewis’ fortune, initially valued at $15 million, on grounds that he was better suited to handle the “large, complex estate” than Diane Larson, the mother of Lewis’ children. In May 2009, the Orange County Probate Court turned the estate over to Williams. In 2010, the 4th District Court of Appeal awarded Diane Larson control of Lewis’ estate. Unfortunately, Williams had already sold TapouT at a price other shareholders would later call “pennies on the dollar.” In addition, he sold Lewis’ Bentley and Mercedes-Benz for $58,000 less than their appraised values, and paid $45,000 to Lewis’ former business partners for funeral expenses they promised to provide for free.
Charles Lewis was an inventive businessman, but even successful businessmen can fail to properly plan. If you want to minimize your estate planning taxes and/or avoid the probate process, then contact The Mendel Law Firm, L.P. for a free initial consultation on estate planning, trust planning, and/or probate issues.