Former Zappos CEO and Las Vegas Investor Tony Hsieh’s Death Ruled an Accident in Connecticut House Fire

Posted on: December 1, 2020, 01:07h. 

Last updated on: December 2, 2020, 11:22h.

Retired Zappos CEO Tony Hseih’s death has been ruled an accident, but remains under investigation. The 46-year-old Las Vegas entrepreneur died Friday from injuries in a Connecticut house fire.    

New London Hsieh house
Retired Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh was injured in a fire at this house in New London, Conn. He later died from injuries in the fire. (Image: Hartford Courant)

Hsieh (pronounced Shay) died of complications from smoke inhalation, according to the Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Hsieh’s family was at his side when he died nine days after the incident, the Associated Press reported.

The investigation into the cause and manner of the fire is still active, according to media accounts.   

Fire crews first responded to the Nov. 18 blaze in New London, Conn., at about 3:30 am. People at the site told firefighters they were unable to get Hsieh out of a locked storage area that had smoke coming from it, according to the Hartford Courant.

The Hartford newspaper reported that crews forced their way into the storage area. Hsieh was unresponsive when firefighters pulled him out. Emergency crews performed CPR on Hsieh and took him to the Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London. A Life Star helicopter later flew Hsieh to the Connecticut Burn Center in Bridgeport, about 65 miles west of New London.

Hsieh’s Alleged Girlfriend Owned Home

Rachael Brown is listed as the owner of the Connecticut home where the fire occurred, according to media outlets. Brown is a Las Vegas musician who began working at Zappos in 2004. The five-bedroom, $1.3-million home is on the Thames River.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Brown was Hsieh’s girlfriend and one of his closest confidants.

She was hired at Zappos about 16 years ago as a temporary phone representative, the company website states. Two months later, Hsieh promoted her to lead team-teaching employees the company’s core values, according to the Zappos website.

Brown’s Facebook page states she is from Niantic, Conn. This town of about 3,000 people is on the Niantic Bay about six miles west of New London. She attended Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Brown had lived in Las Vegas but reportedly moved with Hsieh to Park City, Utah, according to the Review-Journal.  The ski resort town is about 32 miles east of Salt Lake City.

Hsieh Moves to Utah

The Illinois-born Hsieh was the son of immigrants from Taiwan. He grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and later graduated from Harvard University. At 24, he sold an online marketing firm to Microsoft and invested in an online shoe retailer that became Zappos.

The company’s name is an adaptation of the Spanish word for shoes. The company is based in Las Vegas.

Amazon paid $2.1 billion for Zappos in 2009 and retained Hsieh to run the company. Hsieh invested $350 million in reviving parts of downtown Las Vegas that had fallen into neglect in an economic slump.

After more than 20 years with the company, Hsieh resigned from Zappos last August.

Earlier this year, he attended the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. He then began buying property there. Hsieh recently moved into a $4-million home he bought in the resort city’s Old Town neighborhood, according to the New York Times.

On Saturday, Hsieh was honored with a tribute displayed on the Fremont Street Experience lighted canopy in downtown Las Vegas. Fremont Street is lined on both sides with casinos. This historic casino district is known as Glitter Gulch.