Nest’s Tony Fadell hurt in water-skiing accident

September 8, 2014, 4:17 PM UTC
Photograph by Robyn Twomey

Tony Fadell has been flying high of late, having sold his company, Nest, to Google (GOOG) for more than $3 billion earlier in the year. For the time being, however, the former Apple (AAPL) hardware executive is lying low. He recently ruptured his hamstring water skiing in Canada, requiring quick surgery and confining him to his Silicon Valley home for weeks.

A native of Michigan, a state dotted with lakes, Fadell is an experienced water skier. But when a Canadian pro suggested a new method for starting, the results were disastrous. “I could hear it and feel it go pop,” he said in a phone interview last week. The accident happened in August, and Fadell rushed home to California to have his hamstring re-attached to his hip bone.

The injury caused Fadell to cancel a Sept. 6 keynote speech to the IFA conference in Berlin, a European version of the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Matt Rogers, the head of engineering for Nest and a company co-founder, replaced Fadell.

Fadell has loudly proclaimed his happiness as a Google employee since Nest was swallowed up by the neighboring giant. (Nest is in Palo Alto, Calif.; Google is in Mountain View.) And he wasted no time singing the praises of Google Hangouts, the company’s free, web-based videoconferencing service. “Other than two days post surgery I’ve been in the office every day,” he says. “Just virtually. It’s been incredibly productive.”

Nest also has been productive in the months since I profiled Fadell in Fortune magazine. In June it unveiled a “Works with Nest” program that allows other companies to write software programs so their products will work with Nest’s devices. Fadell says 33,000 people tuned into the livestream of the program’s announcement, “way ahead of our expectations.” At the European conference, Nest announced it is moving into four new countries—Ireland, Belgium, Holland, France—as well as beefing up its existing operation in the U.K. The move into France is particularly opportune, Fadell says. “France has never had smoke detector regulations before. They will have them for the first time on Jan. 1. It’s perfect timing for us as people have to comply with the law.”

As for Fadell’s beaten-up body, it hasn’t been the best year in his household. His wife Danielle Lambert, the former head of human resources at Apple (where they met), broke her collar bone several months ago in a horse-riding accident. Fadell says the two are mending together. “I’ll be able to walk again when she’s able to ride again.”