Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos and author of business books, died at 46 after the Connecticut fire

Tony Hsieh speaks in 2013 at a luncheon at the Grand Rapids Economic Club in Michigan.


LAS VEGAS (AP) – Tony Hsieh, retired CEO of Las Vegas-based online shoe retailer, who has spent years working to transform the city’s downtown core, has passed away. He was two weeks away from his 47th birthday.

Hsieh was with his family when he died on Friday, according to DTP Companies, which he founded. He died of injuries sustained in a fire Nov. 18 in New London, Connecticut, Megan Fazio, spokesperson for the Downtown Partnership in Las Vegas, told Hearst Connecticut Media on Saturday.

The Day newspaper reported on the day of the fire that a person was taken from a waterfront home in New London with possible burns and smoke inhalation. The person, whose name authorities have not released, was eventually taken to Bridgeport Hospital, which has a burn center.

Fire Chief Thomas Curcio was quoted by Day as saying that crews arrived around 3:30 am after a report that someone had been trapped in part of the house; that the firefighters had to force the passage; and that they abducted the victim, performed CPR and took her to the hospital.

Hsieh, originally from Illinois, grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and graduated from Harvard University in 1995, recently retired from Zappos after 20 years at the helm of the company. His leadership within the company has made him a guru of new era business management, with a New Yorker profile in 2009 calling Hsieh an architect not only of a corporate culture centered on “Zappiness” but of a wider movement for the propagation of happiness.

He became a motivational speaker and author.

On Friday evening, the online shoe retailer paid tribute on social media: “The world has lost a great visionary and an amazing human being,” the statement said. “His mind will forever be a part of Zappos.”

Hsieh joined the company – then called – in 1999. Zappos was sold to Amazon for $ 1.2 billion in 2009, but Hsieh remained with the company until his retirement.

From MarketWatch Archives (June 2010): Zappos, under Amazon, keeps its independent streak

“Tony’s kindness and generosity touched the lives of everyone around him and forever lit the world,” a statement from DTP Companies said.

“Providing happiness has always been her mantra, so instead of mourning her transition, we ask you to join us in celebrating her life. “

For years, Hsieh has also worked on revitalizing downtown Las Vegas, pledging $ 350 million in 2013 for the redevelopment. That same year, he moved the Zappos headquarters to the old Las Vegas City Hall building.

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

Tributes poured in on social media.

“Your curiosity, vision and relentless focus on customers leave an indelible mark,” Jeff Bezos, CEO and President of Amazon, said on Instagram. “You will be missed by so many people, Tony. Rest in peace.”

“Tony Hsieh is perhaps the most original thinker I’ve ever been friends with,” tweeted former venture capitalist Chris Sacca. “He questioned every assumption and shared everything he learned along the way. He was really happy to make everyone happy.

Skateboarder and entrepreneur Tony Hawk added, “Tony Hsieh was a visionary. He was generous with his time and ready to share his invaluable expertise with anyone.

“A truly original thinker, a brilliant entrepreneur and a caring and generous friend to so many people,” entrepreneur Max Levchin tweeted.

Ali Partovi, CEO of venture capital firm Neo and a partner in one of Hsieh’s early ventures, internet advertising company LinkExchange, said in a tweet on Saturday that Hsieh was one of the most creative people in the world. ‘he has never known.

“I will remember your unique combination of genius and mischief, and your infuriating ability to bet against the odds and win,” Partovi said.

MarketWatch has contributed to this.

Grover Z. Barnes

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