LAS VEGAS (KLAS/AP) — Tony Hsieh, the retired CEO of Las Vegas-based online shoe retailer Zappos.com, who spent years working to transform the city’s downtown area, has died. He was 46.
Hsieh was with family when he died Friday, according to DTP Companies, which he founded. He died of injuries suffered in a Nov. 18 fire in New London, Connecticut, Downtown Partnership spokesperson Megan Fazio told Hearst Connecticut Media on Saturday.
The Day newspaper reported the day of the fire that one person had been removed from a waterfront home in New London with possible burns and smoke inhalation. The person, whose name authorities did not release, was eventually taken to Bridgeport Hospital, which has a burn center.
Fire Chief Thomas Curcio was quoted by The Day as saying that crews arrived around 3:30 a.m. after a report of someone trapped in part of the house, that firefighters had to force their way in, and that they removed the victim, performed CPR, and took him to a hospital.
DTP Companies, formerly known as the Downtown Project, confirmed the visionary died peacefully with family by his side in Connecticut.
The company released a statement, including words from Hsieh’s family. It reads:
Tony’s kindness and generosity touched the lives of everyone around him, and forever brightened the world. Delivering happiness was always his mantra, so instead of mourning his transition, we ask you to join us in celebrating his life.
On behalf of all DTP Companies employees and staff, we would like to express our deepest condolences to Tony’s family and friends who have all lost Tony as a cherished loved one, visionary, and friend. Tony was highly regarded by all of his fellow friends and colleagues in the tight-knit family at DTP Companies, so this heartbreaking tragedy is one that affects many involved.
We ask that you continue to respect the family’s privacy during this most difficult and challenging time.”DTP Companies and the Hsieh Family
Downtown Partnership spokesperson Megan Fazio later added:
He was a humanitarian. A forward thinker who saw the happiness ahead of dollars. He bridged businesses, community, and all walks of life towards the end.
Tony was a kind visionary. He helped revitalize DTLV and believed in people’s passions.
There is no human that met Tony and didn’t fall in love with his humanity.”
Hsieh was often called a visionary, but he didn’t start that way. He once said his passion for business didn’t begin with shoes, but with earthworms. When that didn’t pay off, he tried other things.
“Bought a bunch of them and thought I could produce more worms, but that didn’t work out,” Hsieh shared in an earlier interview. “They all escaped … There was the lemonade stand. There was the small mail order button business, where I would make the buttons that people would pin on.”
After graduating from Harvard, he created and sold a website with his roommate and made $265 million. After that, he invested that money into Zappos back in 1999.
The retailer, which started out purely selling shoes, expanded its empire to include everything from handbags to clothing and accessories. Headquarters were moved to Henderson in 2004, and Amazon eventually bought the company in 2009 for around $1.2 billion.
8 News Now’s Tedd Florendo got to speak with Hsieh back in 2012. They spoke about his goals and success. When asked if he considers himself ambitious, he replied:
“I guess I wouldn’t say ambitious. Just the type of person who gets bored easily.”
He also founded DTP in 2012. For years, Hsieh worked to revitalize downtown Las Vegas, pledging $350 million in 2013 for redevelopment. The same year he moved Zappos’ headquarters into the former Las Vegas City Hall building.
A friend and business partner of Hsieh, Sarah Lacy, spoke out Tuesday night saying, “Whether it was selling shoes, rather it was rebuilding a city. whether it was tiny houses. He was always following this obsessive thread of making other people happy.”
Many tributes poured out on social media.
“Tony Hsieh played a pivotal role in helping transform Downtown Las Vegas,” Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak tweeted Friday night. “Kathy and I send our love and condolences to Tony’s family and friends during this difficult time.
Derek Stevens, owner of two Downtown Las Vegas properties, Tweeted:
“Your curiosity, vision, and relentless focus on customers leave an indelible mark,” Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO and president, posted on Instagram. “You will be missed by so many, Tony. Rest In Peace.”
“Tony Hsieh might be the most original thinker I’ve ever been friends with,” former venture investor Chris Sacca tweeted. “He questioned every assumption and shared everything he learned along the way. He genuinely delighted in making anyone and everyone happy.”
Skateboarder and entrepreneur Tony Hawk added, “Tony Hsieh was a visionary. He was generous with his time and willing to share his invaluable expertise with anyone.”
“A truly original thinker, a brilliant entrepreneur, and a kind-hearted and generous friend to so many,” tweeted entrepreneur Max Levchin.
Ali Partovi, CEO of the venture capital fund Neo, was a partner in one of Hsieh’s earliest ventures, the internet advertising company LinkExchange. In a tweet Saturday, Partovi said Hsieh was one of the most creative people he had ever known.
“I’ll remember your unique combo of genius and mischief, and your infuriating ability to bet against all odds and win,” Partovi said.
Hsieh stepped down as Zappos’ CEO back in August 2020.