Harry Morton, the founder of the Pink Taco restaurant chain, has died at the age of 38. According to early reports, he was found unresponsive at his Beverly Hills residence by a family member, and was ultimately pronounced dead at the scene.
Morton was best known as a third-generation restaurateur. His father, Peter, was the founder of the Hard Rock Cafe, and his grandfather, Arnie, put the family's last name on the ubiquitous Morton's The Steakhouse chain. The younger Morton previously owned the Viper Room, the infamous Sunset Strip nightclub, which he once described as "a neglected child that needed some polishing."
He opened his first Pink Taco restaurant as an 18-year-old, inside the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas (his father owned the property at the time). Morton sold Pink Taco to private equity management firm Z Capital Partners in April 2016, but it was reported that he would continue to "lead the creative direction" of the brand.
"If I could go back, I would change the name,” Morton told Haute Living in 2012. “It started off as a funny idea. It was a joke at the time. But now we pride ourselves on our ability to evolve, and the food speaks for itself.
"The name isn’t even provocative anymore, it’s almost cliché. If we kept trying to play that hand it would be boring. The name is what it is. But at least it’s catchy and internationally known.” (Despite the 'cliche' name, people still seem capable of being shocked and surprised by it: before it opened in July in Boston's Seaport district, it was called "regrettably named," "bad," and "remarkably stupid.")
"We are saddened by the passing of Harry Morton, the founder and former owner of Pink Taco," a restaurant spokesperson said in a statement. "Harry was a visionary and restaurateur ahead of his time, and his contributions, both professionally to our brand and personally to those he worked with, were numerous. Our thoughts and condolences are with his family and friends during this difficult time."
Morton was also known for his numerous relationships with celebrities, and had previously been linked with Jennifer Aniston, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Demi Moore.
On Sunday, Lohan shared a black and white photo of herself with Morton on Instagram, captioning it "Best friends. Best life."
According to People, earlier this year, Morton bought a $25.46 million home in Beverly Hills that was previously owned by Elvis and Priscilla Presley. (Morton's father also previously owned the residence). And, as TMZ notes, Morton was also a volunteer sheriff's deputy with the West Hollywood Sheriff's Station and, last year, he was honored as the station's Reserve Deputy of the Year.
The Los Angeles County Coroner said that no foul play was suspected in his death, but the cause was still under investigation.