A week after the death of former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, we finally have more details about how the beloved businessman died. Information has been released about his cause of death, as well as other aspects surrounding the death of the shoe magnate millionaire. We will be providing updates as more information becomes available.
Updated 12/10/20 10:15AM
Tony Hospitalized For Erratic Behavior Before Death
Details are slowly trickling to the surface now about how Hsieh spent his final months on earth. Jewel wasn’t the only friend worried about Hsieh’s increasingly erratic behavior, and it has now been reported that the business mogul was hospitalized for his worrying behavior just months before he died.
Hsieh’s friends called 911 at least twice in the months before he died. The New York Post reports that Hsieh’s behavior was so bad that friends warned authorities against letting him go free. “On June 30, an anonymous male friend called 911 to say that Hsieh was smashing things in his home and threatening to hurt himself, the report said.
The call logs show that it was treated as a psychiatric incident, and emergency services took the eccentric mogul to a hospital after making contact with him on the patio of his candle-covered $16 million mansion.
Later that night, another anonymous friend called 911 to ‘make sure the hospital staff understand the situation fully’ and know that Hsieh needed urgent help.
‘If he gets released it will be a problem,’ the dispatcher wrote, according to the outlet.”
On August 14th, another anonymous male friend called 911 to let them know that he had a high-profile friend who was behaving in a paranoid behavior, and who was indulging in nitrous oxide to the point that those around him were concerned for his safety. Someone who claimed to be a relative of Hsieh was contacted by authorities checking on his welfare, and they told police that everything was fine.
Hsieh Went on Property-Buying Spree, ‘Saved Park City’ During Pandemic
When Hsieh moved to Park City, Utah, he said it was with the intent of bringing art and advancement to the city. Now people are sharing stories of Hsieh’s generosity – and the way that he was single-handedly pouring millions into the local economy, saving many businesses during the downturn of the pandemic.
Through a company he called “Pickled Investments” – a nod to his love affair with Grey Goose – Hsieh bought over $50 million worth of local property in Park City. It included a mansion, a series of condos, and other residences.
Hsieh also poured money into local restaurants just as they were hurting the worst from the pandemic shutdowns. The former Zappos CEO gave several restaurants $10,000 each as down payments on food he and friends would be eating there in the future.
At the same time he was saving local businesses and scooping up real estate, Hsieh’s drug use expanded into mushrooms and ecstasy, and some neighbors grew concerned over his fire-centric parties. One complaint detailed flamethrowers spewing fire 25 feet or more into the air, “like dragon’s breath.”
Per the New York Post, “‘Things were falling apart for him,’ Philip Plastina, the founder of an electronic dance music group that moved to Utah to perform at Hsieh’s parties, told the paper.
Hsieh appeared to be ‘the leader’ of ‘a group of people that had said they were moving to Park City because of Tony,’ [local real estate broker Paul] Benson said.
One friend, Scott Roeben, told DailyMail.com that Hsieh’s life in his final months was a cross between Howard Hughes and a cult leader.
‘He went down the same rabbit hole as Hughes and truly lost his way,’ Roeben said. ‘He had built a cult around him.’”
Updated 12/8/20 6:45AM
Singer Jewel Reached Out to Pal Tony About Drug Abuse
Singer and songwriter Jewel Kilcher, known by fans as Jewel, was good friends with Hsieh. The 46-year-old had been friends with Hsieh for a long time, and performed in a private concert for him in Park City, Utah, in August. Park City was Hsieh’s new stomping grounds, and he spoke often about a vision of bringing arts to the city, although locals are unclear as to what he hoped to accomplish. In Park City, Hsieh surrounded himself with new friends and his drug use and erratic behavior escalated. Before pal Jewel could receive the VIP tour from Hsieh, something in his behavior unnerved his old friend. Hsieh was supposed to show Jewel around the city after her performance, but she packed up and left abruptly, then sent him a letter explaining her concerns.
DailyMail shares some of Jewel’s letter to her old friend; “The letter, which was obtained by Forbes, warned that Hsieh was at risk of being remembered as drug addict and not the tech visionary he was.
She wrote that his current lifestyle choices were putting him in danger of crossing from ‘eccentric to madness’.
The singer, who posted a song tribute to Hsieh online this week, was meant to spend the week but left abruptly after just one day.
‘She wrote the letter to him soon after.
‘I am going to be blunt,’ she wrote. ‘I need to tell you that I don’t think you are well and in your right mind. I think you are taking too many drugs that cause you to disassociate.
‘The people you are surrounding yourself with are either ignorant or willing to be complicit in you killing yourself.
‘When you look around and realize that every single person around you is on your payroll, then you are in trouble.
‘You are in trouble, Tony.
‘If the world could see how you are living, they would not see you as a tech visionary, they would see you as a drug addicted man who is a cliche.
‘And that’s not how you should go down or be known.
‘Your body cannot take not sleeping. And the amount of N2O you are doing is not natural. You will not hack sleep and you will not outsmart nature.'”
It would seem that Jewel’s heartfelt and blunt plea went unheeded, as months later Hsieh was dead due to complications from his drug use. However, a new report suggests that Hsieh was in the process of enrolling in rehab in his last days.
Hsieh Seeks Rehab
According to friends, Hsieh had finally come to realize that his drug use was out of control and had planned to enter a rehab facility in Hawaii. Hsieh was obsessed with fire, obsessed with oxygen deprivation, and often starved himself down to 100lbs for the sensation it produced when he used drugs. The technique Hsieh often employed when using drugs is known as “biohacking,” or tricking the body into new behaviors by retraining it.
On the night he died, Hsieh reportedly asked friends to check on him every five minutes, grabbed a heater to lower oxygen levels, and then headed into the shed where he would sustain fatal injuries. Although he wanted friends to check on him, at some point Hsieh became paranoid and barricaded everyone out. It’s likely either the heater or a candle sparked the fire that mixed with Hsieh’s nitrous oxide and ultimately injured the former Zappos CEO fatally.
What We Know About Cause of Death
In the early hours of November 18th, New London, Connecticut fire chief Thomas Curcio says his department responded to a fire. Around 3:30 A.M., responding firefighters pulled an unconscious Hsieh from a barricaded shed on the property of a local home.
Hsieh was in dire condition, treated at a local hospital for smoke inhalation and burns before being transferred to another facility. The 46-year-old ultimately succumbed to complications from his injuries on Friday, the 27th.
Whose Home Was He At When He Died?
According to reports, Hsieh was at the home of rumored girlfriend Rachael Brown when he died. Per the New York Post, “Brown is said to have been Hsieh’s girlfriend — and one of his closest confidantes as a high-ranking Zappos employee, the Las Vegas Review Journal reported.
She was recruited to the company when it moved from San Francisco to Las Vegas in 2004 — five years after it first launched — and headed its first training team, the outlet said.”
Brown is also a well-known cellist in the Las Vegas area.
The NY Post continues, “She was also part of the Vegas Golden Strings lineup that performed alongside Imagine Dragons on ‘Whatever It Takes’ prior to Game 2 of the NHL Final in 2018.
Hsieh was in Connecticut with his brother when the fire broke out, Tech Crunch reported.
One of the entrepreneur’s assistants, Anthony Hebert, told Fox 61 that Hsieh was in the state visiting family — and his ‘soulmate,’ though he declined to elaborate.
Public records show the five-bedroom, four-bath home was purchased in Brown’s name on Aug. 3.”
Tony Wrestled With Drugs and Alcohol
Despite his success – or maybe because of it – Hsieh struggled with drug alcohol use. Per the DailyMail, “DailyMail.com has also exclusively learned that Hsieh’s drug abuse escalated at the time of his death. And friends fear that his use of the laughing gas nitrous oxide and his love of candles could have caused the fire that killed him.
‘In recent months the nitrous oxide had become as important to Tony as his alcohol,’ one close colleague said. ‘And Grey Goose vodka was his best friend.’
Although nitrous oxide is not flammable it does accelerate the burning of combustible material that is already alight, according to PubChem.
A spokeswoman for the office confirmed to DailyMail.com that the ruling was made before toxicology reports — not due till after the New Year — have been completed. ‘But that will not change unless the medical examiner deems the tests relevant,’ she said.
People close to Hsieh are now painting a dark picture of his heavy drug use which they say had escalated since he quit as CEO of the online shoe giant Zappos in the summer.
‘His heavy alcohol and drug use was known by everyone around him,’ the colleague said. ‘Anyone that challenged him about it was cast aside.
‘The talk among his former colleagues at Zappos is that Tony was likely in the shed blacked out drunk and on drugs. He was a major alcoholic and a drug addict. He was hardcore.’
Hsieh had often talked about his drug use and his love in his younger days for all night raves. Vanity Fair called him ‘the consummate partier’ who often took shots of Grey Goose ‘just because.'”
Hsieh’s recent drug of choice had become nitrous oxide, and friends have speculated that the entrepreneur’s habit of lighting candles for drug trips may have combined with the deadly flammable potential of nitrous to spell Hsieh’s doom.
Despite His Struggles, Tony Was Well-Loved
Like so many people who struggle with addiction and alcohol abuse, Hsieh was still beloved by those in his life. Although friends worried and encouraged him to take care, Hsieh had a magnetic personality that was hard to stay away from.
According to the DailyMail, “Hsieh was the son of Taiwanese immigrants, who met as graduate students at the University of Illinois.
He sold [Zappos] to Amazon in 2009 for $1.2 billion, but continued as CEO.
He had a passion for llamas and alpacas and the area he lived in in Vegas became known as Llamapolis.
Hsieh was known as an iconoclastic boss. One of his schemes was to offer $1,000 for every year served up to a maximum of $5,000 for any employee who wanted to leave. He believed that if they no longer had the passion to want to work for him it was better to pay them to quit.
He was also known for his visionary transformation of parts of Las Vegas that had suffered in the shadow of The Strip. He lent money he had received from Amazon to help small businesses build up areas of the city.
‘Tony Hsieh’s vision and generosity made Las Vegas more exciting, more vibrant, and more of a community,’ said Democratic Rep. Dina Titus, whose congressional district covers downtown.
And one-time venture investor Chris Sacca said in a tweet: ‘Tony Hsieh might be the most original thinker I’ve ever been friends with. He questioned every assumption and shared everything he learned along the way. He genuinely delighted in making anyone and everyone happy.'”
Lack of Will Complicates Hsieh’s Legacy
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that it seems as though Hsieh passed without a legal will. Although his parents are likely to inherit his nearly-billion dollar fortune, the lack of legal directive complicates the process.
Tony’s Family Speaks Out
Now, in the wake of their unimaginable loss, Hsieh’s family has spoken out, hoping that above all, people remember the way he touched people’s lives.
DailyMail shares, “The Hsieh family is deeply grateful for the outpouring of love and respect shown in the wake of Tony’s passing,’ the statement, obtained by DailyMail.com, read.
‘It is clear to the family that he had a profound impact on countless people all over the world. He was a forward thinker with a zeal for bringing joy to others, and bridged communities and people from all walks of life. He valued experiences and relationships over material wealth, and always chose kindness.
The Hsieh family’s statement applauded his selflessness and how much he meant to his parents, Richard and Judy.
‘Tony was extremely accomplished in both his personal and professional lives, his parents are most proud of how he turned out as a human being. He had true compassion and an endless desire to elevate everyone around him. He would often refer to himself as the caboose, because everyone else came first.
Happiness, the statement said, was one of Hsieh’s most invaluable gifts to the world.
‘The Hsieh family hopes to carry on Tony’s legacy by spreading the tenets he lived by — finding joy through meaningful life experience, inspiring and helping others, and most of all, delivering happiness.'”