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The final days of former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh

December 7, 2020, 3:33 PM UTC

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The death of former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh came as a shock. At just 46, the investor had made an enormous impact on business during his time at the shoe e-commerce company, reshaping customer service and encouraging new company cultures by eschewing hierarchy within his own.

Late last week and on Monday, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal separately published two difficult-to-read yet important pieces on the final days of Hsieh, who died at the end of November due to complications from a Connecticut house fire. 

Known for penning the 2010 business book Delivering Happiness: A Path To Profits, Passion and Purpose, Hsieh became beloved for investing some $350 million to help revitalize downtown Las Vegas. And among friends, he was known to be generous: The entrepreneur bought friends houses, apartments, and restaurants, per the WSJ.

But personally, Hsieh struggled with a deep sense of loneliness that he had previously channeled into his work. In the coronavirus pandemic, it had been exacerbated. Hsieh increasingly turned to alcohol, mushrooms, and ecstasy following his retirement earlier this year. He was also known to inhale nitrous oxide cartridges that can induce hypoxia. By August, friends and family were planning an intervention.

Hsieh died after complications related to smoke inhalation. But there are only bits and pieces of the story of the fateful house fire. Some first responders, according to radio recordings at the time, said that a victim was “trapped” in the house, while another said he was “barricaded” inside. Hsieh doesn’t appear to have written a will, and a day before the fire, he had made plans to check into a rehab facility in Hawaii, according to the Journal.

While Hsieh’s family declined to speak on the specifics around the former executive’s death, they told the Journal they plan to “carry on his legacy by spreading the tenets he lived by—finding joy through meaningful life experiences, inspiring and helping others, and most of all, delivering happiness.” Based on the outpouring of grief and sympathy from entertainers, politicians and investors following Hsieh’s death, his legacy will most certainly last. Read more.

Lucinda Shen
Twitter: @shenlucinda


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