Tony Hsieh, a former head of Zappos, who catapulted the shoe company into the big leagues with the sale of Amazon and then used the proceeds from his success in a huge project to regenerate the run-down part of Las Vegas, Nevada. and wider business investment at the age of 46.
The reason for this was injuries caused by a domestic fire, a Hsieh spokesman for TechCrunch confirmed. He was in Connecticut with his brother at the time of the fire. It is not clear if anyone else is injured.
The ultimate cause of Hsieh’s death is still being investigated. We will update this and find out more. The full statement from the DTP companies leading the Downtown Project (Hsieh’s mammoth initiative to regenerate a very dilapidated, older part of Las Vegas) is below.
The news sent shockwaves amid the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and through a community in a city heavily dependent on tourism that was hit hard by the Covid-19 global health epidemic.
Hsieh was a genius, cheeky, and – for many people, often very directly – a kind-hearted man who was regularly described as a seer.
That was no exaggeration. Growing up in the Bay Area in 1998, at the age of just 24, he sold his first company, a marketing technology company called LinkExchange, to Microsoft.
Using part of the proceeds, he founded a venture capital company called Venture Frog. One of his early investments was ShoeSite.com, which was founded by Nick Swinmurn in 1999, when the latter saw a shift in how people buy footwear and do much more online.
Hsieh was entrepreneurial in his investment instincts and then took a practical role in the startup, which eventually changed to Zappos. As CEO of Zappos, Hsieh moved the company from the Bay Area to the suburbs of Vegas in 2004 to build a larger customer service operation driven by a particularly strong spirit of housing management aimed at strengthening and inspiring employees. His leadership helped him grow tremendously: by 2009, he sold Zappos to Amazon for about $ 1.2 billion (it was really a huge amount for an e-commerce startup at the time).
He then continued to lead the company and used the proceeds of this work to focus on the next big project: urban regeneration.
Las Vegas is a city that leaves little to be desired. Located in the middle of the desert, the city relentlessly focused on growth, allowing new, seemingly boundless space for this. For years, this meant that huge “older” Vegas businesses in the downtown region simply sat empty, resulting in the larger area eventually becoming a hotbed of crime and poverty. Like many other urban centers, this was a vicious circle: people are focusing on building newer homes and businesses elsewhere, and this is making older areas even more neglected and vulnerable.
Hsieh saw the magic of the 20th-century modernist downtown bloom under more obvious signs of decline, buying up huge pieces of the neighborhood: apartment buildings, houses, small business structures, old casinos and hotels, and vacant plots. .
His vision was not just to be a real estate magnate — though he clearly was interested in it as well — but to revive Vegas in the form he knew best: tech.
He has invested in plenty of start-ups, provided they move to Vegas to build their businesses downtown to bring entrepreneurs and jobs to the area.
There were plenty of weird elements in the effort: not everything was about the hardening business, and some was just about large-scale entertainment. For example, Burning Man-inspired Hsieh paid to build more buildings in the desert for the festival and transport them permanently downtown.
A couple of memorable evenings I spent with him in Vegas highlighted the profile of the city for me.
Jumping from casino to bar restaurant one night we went on an excellent piano karaoke dive where we sang duets with Duran Duran as his childhood best friend and struck back Frenet Branca. People flocked around him wherever he went (so many breathtaking “Hi, Tony” from the many women we walked by). I remember wondering if it was being a mafia boss (when my friend was playing an agent or I was a guest for the night) like that day.
Of course, the Downtown Project, as it was called, was a great idea, and like many great visions, it had ups and downs.
Some of these are not surprising: The mere willingness to exist for something is not always enough, and the rate of success in technology is very low in reality. And the great approach didn’t always play out in the best way and sometimes obscured what could actually happen. Example: Hsieh abruptly resigned from his post as CEO of Zappos earlier this year, giving no explanation for the move after appearing for 21 years.
Nevertheless, between his work built in Zappos and Hsieh, his work and larger ideas were important proofs of the impact the technology industry can have with little imagination, a lot of hard work and perseverance.
We extend our condolences to the slices of his family and many friends, as well as the tech and business worlds he has helped create.
The following statement from the DTP:
Hello, my name is Megan Fazio, and I run public relations for DTP companies, formerly known as the Downtown Project, with Tony Hsieh as a visionary. With serious and a broken heart, we regret to inform you that Tony Hsieh died peacefully on November 27, 2020, around his beloved family.
Tony’s kindness and generosity touched the lives of everyone around him and enlightened the world forever. Giving happiness has always been his mantra, so instead of mourning the transition, we ask you to join us in celebrating your life.
On behalf of all the employees and staff of DTP Company, we would like to express our deepest condolences to Tony’s family and friends who have all lost Tony as a cherished sweetheart, seer and friend. Tony has been appreciated by his great friends and colleagues in the tight family of DTP companies, so this heartbreaking tragedy affects many stakeholders.
Please continue to respect your family’s privacy during this most difficult and challenging period.