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Former Zappos CEO, downtown Las Vegas visionary Tony Hsieh dies at 46

Updated November 28, 2020 - 12:22 pm

Tony Hsieh, the former chief executive of Zappos who pumped a fortune into downtown Las Vegas and became the face of its revitalization, died Friday after being injured in a house fire.

He was 46.

Megan Fazio, spokeswoman for Hsieh’s side venture DTP Companies, confirmed in an email Friday night that Hsieh had died. She later confirmed that he died from injuries sustained in a house fire after arriving at a hospital in New London, Connecticut, at 3 a.m. on Nov. 18.

He had been in Connecticut with his brother, she said.

Hsieh was an unorthodox business mogul — he had lived in an Airstream trailer downtown — who started investing heavily in a once-neglected area of Las Vegas coming out of the Great Recession, when the economy was in rough shape.

Related: Tony Hsieh in Las Vegas — PHOTOS

“Tony’s kindness and generosity touched the lives of everyone around him, and forever brightened the world,” DTP’s statement said. “Delivering happiness was always his mantra, so instead of mourning his transition, we ask you to join us in celebrating his life.”

It added: “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.”

Hsieh’s family confirmed the death in a text message to friends, saying that his generous spirit touched the lives of countless people and that he left an indelible mark on the world, according to Footwearnews.com.

Tribute in works at Fremont Street Experience

On Saturday night, Hsieh will be honored on Fremont Street Experience’s Viva Vision video canopy. His family has asked his fellow downtown Las Vegas visionary Derek Stevens and his wife, Nicole, to take the lead on the tribute.

“They want a tribute and I’m happy they reached out to Nicole and I this morning,” Stevens, co-owner of Circa, the D Las Vegas and Golden Gate hotel-casino, said in a text message Saturday.

While details are still being finalized, Stevens said plans are for an 8 p.m. show on the Viva Vision LED screens at the Fremont Street Experience.

Zappos’ new CEO, Kedar Deshpande, told the company Friday night in an internal memo obtained by the Review-Journal that the online shoe seller “lost our inspiring former leader” and that “many of you have also lost a mentor and a friend.”

Related: Reaction to Tony Hsieh’s death: shock and tributes

“Tony played such an integral part in helping create the thriving Zappos business we have today, along with his passion for helping to support and drive our company culture,” Deshpande wrote.

He also said in the email the company would be exploring ways to celebrate Hsieh’s life in the coming days.

A Zappos spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment Friday night.

Hsieh moved Zappos from a suburban Henderson office park to the 11-story former Las Vegas City Hall in 2013. He also launched his side company, then called Downtown Project, in 2012 to put $350 million into real estate, restaurants, tech startups and other ventures in the Fremont Street area.

‘A tragic loss’

He pumped money into downtown, albeit with mixed results, and assembled a portfolio of some 90 properties by 2017.

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman called Hsieh’s death “a tragic loss.”

“Tony meant so much to Las Vegas, always dreaming, working to inspire and leading others to create a new vision for tomorrow. Our prayers and sympathies to his family,” she said.

In 1998, when Hsieh reportedly was just 24, he sold online marketing firm LinkExchange to Microsoft Corp. for $265 million in stock. Nick Swinmurn launched Zappos in 1999 — it was originally ShoeSite.com — and Hsieh soon invested in the startup.

He and Swinmurn ran the company together for a period, and in 2004, Zappos moved from San Francisco to Henderson to better build its customer service operations.

In 2009, Hsieh, by then top boss, sold Zappos to e-commerce giant Amazon in a deal valued at about $1.2 billion.

Hsieh retired from Zappos and was replaced as its chief executive in August without a formal announcement from the company he had led for two decades, after he embarked on a homebuying binge in the wealthy ski town of Park City, Utah.

As of August, he had purchased at least eight homes in Park City this year, including a 17,350-square-foot mansion with a sports court, private lake and horseback riding corral, and other homes that span at least 2,900 square feet.

In October, DTP Companies purchased Zappos’ headquarters for $65 million, records indicated.

Gov. Steve Sisolak tweeted Friday night that Hsieh “played a pivotal role in helping transform” downtown Las Vegas.

Myron Martin, president and CEO of The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, said Hsieh “was a friend and a loyal supporter” of the downtown venue.

Hsieh donated $1 million to The Smith Center and bought all of the tickets in his box and gave them to his employees, Martin said.

“I will miss his ‘all-hands’ staff meetings in Reynolds Hall and the epic after-parties in Symphony Park,” Martin said. “Mostly, I will miss his kindness.”

Contact Eli Segall at esegall@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0342. Follow @eli_segall on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writers Subrina Hudson and John Katsilometes contributed to this report.

More Tony Hsieh:

-Tony Hsieh to be honored on Fremont Street

-Reaction to Tony Hsieh’s deah: Shock and tributes

-Tony Hsieh in Las Vegas — PHOTOS

From the archives:

-Ex-Zappos chief Tony Hsieh on homebuying spree in Utah (2020)

-Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, champion of downtown Las Vegas, retires (2020)

-Tony Hsieh talks Life is Beautiful, Downtown Project at conference

-Downtown guru Hsieh tinkers with ‘urban camping’ in Airstream trailer (2015)

-Tour offers glimpse inside Hsieh’s downtown apartment (2014)

-Entertainment Diet: Tony Hsieh (2016)

-NORM Q&A: Entrepreneur Tony Hsieh talks Tyra, Twitter, his mom’s dream (2013)

-Hsieh makes $45M in property deals downtown (2012)

-Hsieh gives $1M to bring young talent to downtown Las Vegas (2012)

-Zappos finalizes City Hall lease (2011)

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