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UPDATED: Tony Hsieh, retired Zappos CEO, dies after New London house fire

Las Vegas — Tony Hsieh, the retired CEO of Las Vegas-based online shoe retailer, who spent years working to transform the city's downtown area, has died. He was 46.

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

The Day reported the day of the fire that one person had been removed from a waterfront home at 500 Pequot Ave. with possible burns and smoke inhalation. The person, whose name authorities did not release, eventually was taken to Bridgeport Hospital, which has a burn center.

Fire Chief Thomas Curcio told The Day at the time that crews arrived about 3:30 a.m. after a report of someone trapped in part of the house, that firefighters had to force their way in and they removed the victim, performed CPR and took him to a hospital.

Curcio said Saturday he couldn't confirm that Hsieh was the victim in the 500 Pequot Ave. fire, but he believes that fire was the only one in New London with serious injuries on Nov. 18.

The fire is under investigation by the fire marshal's office and New London police, Curcio said. Fire Marshal Vernon Skau on Saturday had referred questions to Curcio.

The fire chief also said that since it's still an active investigation, he couldn't comment on the cause of the fire, whether or not it was suspicious or whether there was anybody else in the home at the time of the fire. The Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said Sunday that Hsieh was pronounced dead Friday at Bridgeport Hospital. An autopsy has been performed but the cause of death is pending.

The five-bed, four-bath home was purchased by Rachael Brown in August. A woman by that name was listed as an employee in a posting last year titled "Meet The Women Who've Changed Zappos History."

The Las Vegas Review Journal reported Sunday that Brown, who is originally from Connecticut, is a cellist who performs with groups including Pop Springs, which before the COVID-19 pandemic, headlined on weekends at a room at Caesars Palace for the past five years.

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,” it said. “His spirit will forever be a part of Zappos.”

Hsieh was a Harvard University graduate who joined the company — then called — in 1999. Zappos was sold to Amazon for $1.2 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 revitalize downtown Las Vegas, pledging $350 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 Gov. Steve Sisolak tweeted 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.”

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

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

Ali Partovi, CEO of the venture capital fund Neo, was a partner in one of Hsieh’s earliest ventures, the internet advertising company LinkExchange. In a tweet Saturday, Partovi said Hsieh was one of the most creative people he had ever known.

“I’ll remember your unique combo of genius and mischief, and your infuriating ability to bet against all odds and win,” Partovi said.

Day Staff Writer Erica Moser contributed to this report.

Editor's Note: This article has been updated to include information from the medical examiner's office.


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