After weeks of rumors, Tapout, arguably the most recognizable mixed martial arts apparel brand, has been sold to Authentic Brands Group, the companies announced Monday. The firm also announced it had acquired Silver Star Casting Company, as well as Hitman Fight Gear.
According to its official website, Authentic Brands Group is a "brand development and licensing company" whose goal is "to acquire, manage and build long-term value in prominent consumer brands." Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Tapout was founded in 1997 by Charles "Mask" Lewis and Dan "Punkass" Caldwell, who along with Tim "Skyskrape" Katz formed the "Tapout Crew" that became fixtures at MMA shows around the country. The trio famously took the company from selling shirts out of the back of a car to a business with profits believed to be in excess of $100 million. Lewis died in a March 2009 car crash when his car was hit by a drunk driver.
Tapout is a major advertiser with Zuffa promotions UFC and WEC and also sponsors dozens of fighters, had a reality show on the Versus cable network, has a magazine and has in recent years also acquired or started partnerships with rival apparel companies like Hitman Fight Gear and American Fighter.
ABG chairman and CEO Jamie Salter said the acquisition of a pair of MMA brands is timed with the increasing surge in popularity of the sport.
"This sport is still in its infancy," Salter said in the firm's official release. "We strategically chose these acquisitions as our first big move because we're getting into the right business at the right time. We're looking forward to working with the best brands and the best athletes in the world as we transition these two companies into global lifestyle brands with our retail and licensing partners."
Caldwell said ABG's mission was in sync with the original Tapout mission.
"Tapout is more than a company or a brand to me – it is a way of life," Caldwell said in the statement. "With the passing of my best friend and co-founder Charles 'Mask' Lewis, we've been through a lot. Now we are focused on continuing to set the standard as the industry leader, bringing to life Mask's dream of building a billion-dollar empire. Authentic Brands Group understands what Tapout is about and they share our vision. Mask always said to simply 'believe' and that one word became our formula for success. We believe in Authentic Brands Group and they believe in us."
Silver Star, also an official UFC sponsor, has grown in popularity in recent years sponsoring UFC champion fighters like Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida and Rashad Evans. Silver Star founder and president Luke Burrett said he believes the brand will grow as a part of ABG.
"We've built our brand on staying true to our passion for sponsoring champions and making high quality products", Burrett said. "We are confident that having Authentic Brands Group behind us will allow us to realize our goals and the potential of the brand."
According to a report at Bloomberg
, Caldwell will be Tapout's president with Katz as creative and marketing director. Marc Kreiner had been Tapout's president since coming on board with the company in 2005. Burrett will also be part of the Tapout team according to the report, telling Bloomberg, "We've been fierce competitors with Tapout, and now that we're under the same roof we'll be unstoppable."