Retired Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh dies at 46 after house fire

LAS VEGAS (AP) – Retired CEO of Las Vegas-based online shoe retailer Zappos.com Tony Hsieh, who spent years working to transform the city’s downtown area, has died. He was 46.

Hsieh was with family when he died on Friday, according to DTP Companies, which he founded. He died of injuries suffered in a November 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 centre.

Fire Chief Thomas Curcio was quoted by The Day as saying that crews arrived around 3.30am 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.

Hsieh recently retired from Zappos after 20 years leading the company. The online shoe retailer shared a tribute on social media late Friday.

“The world has lost a tremendous visionary and an incredible human being,” the statement said. “His spirit will forever be a part of Zappos.”

File photo shows former US President Bill Clinton with Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh during a forum of the annual gathering of the Clinton Global Initiative America in Denver. PHOTO: AP

Hsieh was a Harvard University graduate who joined the company — then called ShoeSite.com — in 1999. Zappos was sold to Amazon for USD1.2 billion in 2009, but Hsieh had remained with the company until his retirement.

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

For years, Hsieh also worked to revitalise downtown Las Vegas, pledging USD350 million in 2013 for redevelopment. The same year he moved Zappos’ headquarters into the former Las Vegas City Hall building.

“Tony Hsieh played a pivotal role in helping transform Downtown Las Vegas,” Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak tweeted on Friday night. “Kathy and I send our love and condolences to Tony’s family and friends during this difficult time.”

Many tributes poured out on social media.

“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.”