Las Vegas Investor Tony Hsieh’s Final Months Marked by Drugs, Alcohol, Fire Fascination: Report

Posted on: December 7, 2020, 01:28h. 

Last updated on: December 18, 2020, 04:13h.

Las Vegas investor Tony Hsieh was on a starvation diet, had a fascination with fire, and was using drugs and alcohol toward the end of his life, according to a Wall Street Journal story. He also was planning to seek help.

Tony Hsieh
Retired Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, seen here, pledged $350 million to revive a run-down part of Las Vegas. He died last month from injuries in a Connecticut house fire. (Image: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Hsieh, a tech guru and ex-Zappos CEO, said in his 2010 book, Delivering Happiness, that drinking shots of Grey Goose vodka was a company tradition. He reportedly began drinking even more as he grappled with pandemic-enforced isolation, according to a story published Monday on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

In addition to drinking more in the period leading up to his death, Hsieh was allegedly using drugs, such as mushrooms and ecstasy, and was “obsessed” with Fernet, an Italian liqueur, according to the Wall Street Journal.

He became interested in figuring out what his body could live without, the newspaper reported. He starved himself and weighed under 100 pounds. Hsieh also deprived himself of oxygen and was using nitrous oxide, “which can induce hypoxia,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

His fascination with fire was on the upswing, too, the newspaper reported. A real estate agent in Park City, Utah, said Hsieh had an estimated 1,000 candles at a mansion she’d sold to him. He had moved from Las Vegas to Park City earlier this year.

Recently, his longtime friend, singer-songwriter Jewel, sent Hsieh a letter, saying he was using too many drugs, according to Forbes magazine. She warned that he risked going from “eccentric to madness.”

The day before the fire, Hsieh was making plans to check into a rehabilitation clinic in Hawaii, the Wall Street Journal reported.

In August, Hsieh retired from Zappos after 20 years with the Las Vegas-based online shoe-and-clothing seller. He died the day after Thanksgiving after a house fire in New London, Connecticut. He was 46.

Cause of Fire Under Investigation

Authorities have ruled Hsieh’s death was an accident from complications of smoke inhalation. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Nine days before he died, firefighters broke into an attached storage shed with smoke coming out of it at the three-story house in New London. When fire crews pulled him out, he was unresponsive.

He died on Nov. 27 at Bridgeport Hospital, about 65 miles west of New London. He would have been 47 on Dec. 12.

Hsieh has been at the waterfront home visiting girlfriend Rachael Brown and his brother, Andrew Hsieh, the Wall Street Journal reported. Brown began working at Zappos in 2004. According to the newspaper, Hsieh had told people at the house to check on him in the shed every five minutes. He was using a heater in the shed “to lower the oxygen level,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

Voices on an emergency call for the 3:34 am fire on Nov. 18 can be heard saying a person was “barricaded” or “trapped” inside the shed.

Hsieh’s Philanthropic Legacy

A Las Vegas judge has named Hsieh’s brother, Andrew, and father, Richard, as co-special administrators and legal representatives of his estate, estimated at $840 million. Hsieh apparently died without a will.

The Hsieh family issued a statement, saying they planned 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.”

In Las Vegas, the Harvard University graduate spent millions reviving a neglected part of downtown. He was honored the day after his death with a tribute on the lighted canopy in the downtown casino district.