Harry Morton, the founder of the Pink Taco chain, scion of a famed restaurant family, and sometime date of young Hollywood stars, has been found dead. He was only 38 years old.
Squiring stars from Jennifer Aniston to Lindsay Lohan landed Morton in the tabloid headlines, but his family is already cemented in Los Angeles and Chicago lore through his father’s and grandfather’s restaurant businesses. However, he amassed a fortune from his own ventures throughout the years.
The cause of death is not yet clear. The Beverly Hills Police Department said that foul play is not suspected, according to Fox News.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Morton’s Pink Taco Restaurant Chain Helped His Net Worth Grow to About $300 Million
Harry Morton was a very wealthy man. The Richest estimates that his net worth was around $300 million. He poured some of that wealth into the Pink Taco restaurant chain that he founded in Los Angeles. You can find the Pink Taco website here.
Pink Taco has locations in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and Las Vegas, with one coming in Miami. Morton started the chain when he was only 18 years old.
“We are saddened by the passing of Harry Morton, the founder and former owner of Pink Taco,” the Pink Taco chain said in a statement, according to CBS Los Angeles. “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 got his start working summers at the Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas, which was started by his father.
According to Nation’s Restaurant News, private-equity firm Z Capital Partners acquired Pink Taco in 2017 with plans to expand the concept throughout the country. The site explained that Pink Taco was “a reference to a slang term for female genitalia,” and was known “for its edgy day of the dead design and heavy bar emphasis.”
2. Lindsay Lohan Offered Tribute to Morton, Who Once Owned the Viper Room
Morton dated Lindsay Lohan around 2005, ending up in tabloid headlines. “Best friends. Best life,” Lohan captioned an Instagram tribute to Morton that showed him with her. TMZ reports that they dated for only about three months, however.
He also dated Paris Hilton and Britney Spears through the years, according to ET. TMZ reports that Morton never had a wife or children, though. He also dated Demi Moore, Jennifer Aniston and Hayden Panettiere.
Haute Living once described Harry Morton as looking like a “playboy prince of tabloid reports with his driveway full of cars, a rose gold Daytona Rolex on his arm and Tom Ford sunglasses perched atop a head of dripping, chin-length hair.” However, he was a serious entrepreneur who had turned down dozens of reality TV offers, the site reported.
Morton used to own the famous Viper Room nightclub where River Phoenix died.
He told the site of that purchase, “When I acquired the Viper Room, it was a neglected child that needed some polishing. Now we’re focusing on getting it back to what it was in its heyday. Our focus now is sexy rock. We went back and focused on what the authentic Viper Room was, and that’s paid off.”
3. Morton’s Father Peter Built the Hard Rock Cafe Fortune & His Grandfather Was a Famous Restaurateur in Chicago
Morton was born in Chadderton, United Kingdom. He is the son of Peter Morton, who founded the Hard Rock Café. According to the Richest, his grandfather was also a famous Chicago restaurateur named Arnie Morton. He founded Morton’s Restaurant Group.
Celebrity Net Worth reports that Arnie Morton was tied to Hugh Hefner, developed Playboy Clubs, and then founded the Morton Steakhouse Chain, which he sold in 1987 for $13 million.
Arnie Morton died in 2005. His Associated Press obituary reported that he “helped launch the first Playboy Club and the annual Taste of Chicago food festival.”
“He’s a restaurant legend,” said Grant DePorter, president of Harry Caray’s Restaurant in Chicago, to the AP. “A lot of restaurateurs in the Chicago area started with Arnie.”
Morton’s family owns The Ivy and Morton’s, which are two of LA’s most prestigious restaurants. According to the Guardian, Peter Morton got his start in London with a hotel and catering degree from the University of Denver. The year was 1971.
“I was passing through London, and I noticed there wasn’t any American food,” Peter told the Guardian. He decided to start the first Hard Rock Cafe in Piccadilly. “This was before McDonald’s or Burger King had arrived,” Morton told Guardian. “Market vacuum. It’s the same with any business. Cement. Anything.” His family had been in the restaurant industry for 80 years with roots in Chicago, the publication reports.
According to TMZ, Harry Morton’s mother was Paulene Stone. Stone and Peter Morton are divorced. The Guardian calls Stone a “socialite and Sixties model.” His half-sister, described by TMZ as “model/bounty hunter” Domino Harvey died of a drug overdose in 2005. She was Paulene Stone’s daughter with the late actor Laurence Harvey. A movie was made about Domino’s life starring Keira Knightley.
4. Morton Was a Volunteer Police Officer
According to Fox News, Morton volunteered as a Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputy and was honored as reserve detective of the year by the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station.
Police credited Harry with dedicating “hundreds of hours a year in support of the station’s Detective Bureau,” according to TMZ.
TMZ reports that Harry recently bought Elvis Presley’s former estate in Los Angeles, but that’s not the house where he died. According to The Los Angeles Times, Harry purchased the estate for more than $25 million. The Times describes it as a 5,367-square-foot house that “is on a cul-de-sac in Trousdale Estates and has an attached guesthouse, a four-car motor court and a swimming pool.”
5. Morton Was Discovered by His Younger Brother, Reports Say
Entertainment Tonight is reporting, through sources, that Morton was discovered by his younger brother, Matthew.
Matthew Morton is one of two children that Peter Morton had with his ex-wife, the late Tarlton Morton, with whom he had legal battles after their marriage disintegrated. They also had a daughter named Grace.
According to TMZ, Harry Morton was found unresponsive in his Beverly Hills home.
CBS Los Angeles reported that Morton was pronounced dead at 5:28 p.m. Saturday, and a coroner’s spokesperson said of the cause of death: “The autopsy and report are incomplete at this time, and will probably be completed in a couple of days.”
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