weather icon Clear

Former assistant to Tony Hsieh suing family for breach of contracts

Updated February 9, 2021 - 8:23 pm

A former longtime friend and assistant of Tony Hsieh has taken the late tech mogul’s family to court, alleging contracts she had with him aren’t being honored.

Lawyers for Jennifer “Mimi” Pham filed a partially redacted lawsuit claiming that Hsieh, the former chief executive of Las Vegas-based online shoe seller Zappos, wanted to get into the documentary film industry and had tapped her to provide certain management and administrative support services.

After Hsieh died from injuries suffered in a November house fire in Connecticut at age 46, his father, Richard Hsieh, and brother Andrew Hsieh were appointed co-special administrators of his estate. They issued a notice in late January suspending the contract, the complaint alleges.

Tony Hsieh had also contracted Pham to manage a property he owned in Park City, Utah, known as the Big Moose Yacht Club. She obtained a business license for the venue and submitted applications to the city to allow for nightly guests and the renting of its event space, according to the lawsuit.

After Hsieh died, Park City officials were told that Andrew Hsieh was taking over the application process and that a property management firm would be helping out, the complaint alleges.

The litigation, filed Friday, follows a lawsuit filed Jan. 20 against Hsieh’s father and brother alleging that Baby Monster LLC, an entity co-managed by Pham, had hired contractors on Hsieh’s behalf and was entitled to hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees.

The company has not been compensated “as required” under the contracts, according to the lawsuit.

‘Right hand person’

Both lawsuits allege breach of contract and were filed in Clark County District Court by limited liability companies overseen by Pham.

Both also say that Pham had been Tony Hsieh’s “assistant, right hand person, and friend for the seventeen years preceding his death.”

Hsieh used her cellphone account for his main number and had cable and utility accounts in Pham’s name, and they listed the same address on their drivers’ licenses, the court filings state.

Court papers further claim that unlike Pham’s relationship with Hsieh, “neither Richard Hsieh nor Andrew Hsieh had a close personal relationship with Tony Hsieh, even though they are blood relatives,” alleging that Tony’s brother moved to Park City last year to live with him “in exchange” for a $1 million annual salary.

Las Vegas attorneys David Chesnoff and Richard Schonfeld, who represent Pham in the lawsuits, declined to comment Monday.

Dara Goldsmith, attorney for Hsieh’s father and brother in Tony Hsieh’s probate case, did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

Efforts to get comment from the Hsieh family through public relations representatives were not immediately successful Monday night.

Las Vegas, Park City, New London

Hsieh was a high-profile Las Vegas businessman who turned Zappos into a retail powerhouse, sold it to Amazon in a $1 billion-plus deal in 2009 and moved the company from a suburban Henderson office park to the former Las Vegas City Hall in 2013.

The tech guru also launched his side venture, then called Downtown Project, in 2012 to pump $350 million into the Fremont Street area, a slice of downtown that had grappled with prostitution and drugs.

Through DTP Companies, as the venture was later renamed, Hsieh spent a fortune on real estate, restaurants and other ventures, becoming the face of downtown’s revival and one of its biggest property owners.

After the coronavirus pandemic abruptly ended his once-regular stream of interactions, events and good times in Las Vegas, Hsieh, who was unmarried, emerged in the wealthy Utah ski town of Park City. He bought several houses there last year, was surrounded by new people and hosted plenty of parties.

He also seemed to display erratic behavior, and reports of his drug use sparked concern, people familiar with Hsieh’s life in Park City have told the Review-Journal.

He was replaced as CEO of Zappos last summer without a formal announcement from the company he had led for two decades.

Hsieh died from complications of smoke inhalation from a house fire in New London, Connecticut, that may have been started by a portable propane heater, carelessly discarded smoking materials or misused candles, fire investigators have reported.

According to investigators, there was physical evidence to suggest that Hsieh could have been impaired at the time of the fire, and it was possible that he may have intentionally started it, the Review-Journal previously reported.

Contact Eli Segall at esegall@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0342. Follow @eli_segall on Twitter.

Lawsuit 1 by Las Vegas Review-Journal on Scribd

Lawsuit 2 by Las Vegas Review-Journal on Scribd

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.