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Artist claims Tony Hsieh owed her $40K for ‘ceiling brain prototype’

Updated June 24, 2021 - 9:47 pm

Before he died, tech mogul Tony Hsieh offered to pay $40,000 for a prototype of a brain sculpture that would be installed on the ceiling of one of his Park City, Utah, properties, according to court papers filed this week.

The artist who created the “custom ceiling brain prototype,” Toshie McSwain, alleged in a creditor’s claim filed in Hsieh’s probate case that he never paid for the prototype of a larger $200,000 ceiling project.

The prototype brain was installed inside a $2 million, 4,395-square-foot home in late July, according to an invoice and text messages included with the claim.

“Customer requested custom design, fabrication, and installation sight unseen,” an invoice reads.

McSwain sent Hsieh a letter in late August, saying that she had not received payment for the sculpture.

“Thank you for requesting the brain project, it was very inspiring,” she wrote. “I was surprised we were able to complete it by the deadline. We are now waiting for payment per our agreement.”

Screenshots of text messages, which include photos of the artist creating the brain prototype, show that McSwain repeatedly asked Hsieh’s associates about payment for the sculpture until early November.

Hsieh, the former longtime boss of online shoe seller Zappos and the face of downtown Las Vegas’ revival, died in November at age 46 from injuries suffered in a Connecticut house fire and did not leave a will.

McSwain’s invoice also includes a photograph of what appeared to be a Post-it note contract, which reads “$40k for brain in command ctr,” signed by Hsieh and McSwain.

Hsieh was known for having walls covered with Post-it notes, and the Review-Journal reported in December that his staff in Park City was said to include a court stenographer who was hired to record what people were saying.

McSwain’s is the latest creditor’s claim in a court case to determine the future of Hsieh’s fortune.

A longtime friend and associate of Hsieh named Jennifer Pham filed lawsuits early this year alleging contracts she had with Hsieh weren’t being honored. In early March, she filed more than $90 million worth of creditor’s claims against his estate.

The biggest claim by far, $75 million, represented “the anticipated profit” from Hsieh’s venture in a documentary movie streaming service.

Hsieh’s longtime friend and financial manager Tony Lee also sued Hsieh’s estate in April seeking nearly $7 million over an alleged breach of contract.

Attorneys for Hsieh’s estate could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Contact David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Follow @randompoker on Twitter.

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