Singing Star Jewel Sent ‘Blunt’ Letter to Las Vegas Investor Tony Hsieh Before His Death: Report

The recording star Jewel sent ex-Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh a “blunt” letter months ago, warning that he risked going from “eccentric to madness,” according to a published report. Hsieh, credited with transforming downtown Las Vegas, died last month after a Connecticut house fire. He was 46.

Recording star Jewel, seen here, sings “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in a YouTube tribute to Las Vegas investor Tony Hsieh. He died last month after injuries in a Connecticut house fire. (Image: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Jewel sent the letter by FedEx because Hsieh had given up email and texts as “part of a digital cleanse,” according to Forbes magazine.

The Forbes story, published online Dec. 4, asserts that someone shared the contents of the letter with the magazine. The publication does not reveal who shared the letter that reporters Angel Au-Yeung and David Jeans used in the story.

“I am going to be blunt,” the letter states, according to Forbes. “I need to tell you that I don’t think you are well and in your right mind. I think you are taking too many drugs that cause you to disassociate.”

The letter says Hsieh risked going from “eccentric to madness,” according to the magazine.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal published portions of the letter on its website on Dec. 4. According to the newspaper, a representative for the singer said in response, “Jewel’s not available at this time to elaborate on the story or comment, other than what she posted in the video message.”

On Wednesday, Jewel appeared in a YouTube tribute titled “Elegy for Tony Hsieh.” The tribute lasts more than 11 minutes, and includes Jewel singing, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

In August, Jewel had visited longtime friend Hsieh in Park City, Utah, according to Forbes. She performed acoustically for about 50 people in a private setting and “abruptly” left soon afterwards, the magazine states.

Reviving Downtown Las Vegas

After more than 20 years at Zappos, Hsieh retired from the company in August. Amazon bought Zappos for $1.2 billion in 2009, retaining the Harvard University graduate to run the online shoe-and-clothing seller.

Hsieh spent millions on revitalizing a run-down area of Las Vegas near the casino district, known as Glitter Gulch. He also contributed to philanthropic efforts in the area.

Hsieh recently bought property in Park City, Utah, and apparently had moved from Las Vegas to the ski resort town.

Late last month, Circa Resort owner Derek Stevens and others organized a memorial tribute to Hsieh in downtown Las Vegas. The visual tribute was displayed on the lighted canopy at the Fremont Street Experience.

‘Barricaded’ or ‘Trapped’ in Shed

Hsieh died the day after Thanksgiving in a Bridgeport, Connecticut, hospital.

Nine days earlier, fire crews removed him for a storage shed attached to a house in New London, Connecticut. The shed had smoke coming from it when emergency crews arrived about 3:30 am. Hsieh was unresponsive when crews forced their way into the shed and pulled him out, according to news accounts.

Hsieh had been “barricaded” or “trapped” inside the shed, according to voices heard on emergency dispatch calls.

Hsieh was taken to a hospital in New London, and then to the Connecticut Burn Center at Bridgeport Hospital. Bridgeport is about 65 miles west of New London.

Authorities ruled Hsieh’s death was an accident caused by complications from smoke inhalation. He would have been 47 on Dec. 12.

A court document filed in Las Vegas this week on the family’s behalf seeks to protect his estate, estimated at $840 million. He did not have a will, the court document states.

Larry Henry

Gaming Regulation, Crime, Politics — Larry Henry is a veteran print and broadcast journalist who spent more than 16 years in Nevada, including serving as legislative reporter for the Reno Gazette-Journal and as political editor at the Las Vegas Sun. He's also written about popular culture for the Mob Museum in Las Vegas. As a broadcast journalist, he worked as managing editor at KFSM-TV, the CBS affiliate in Arkansas, where he now lives and where casino growth is a hot topic. A Marine Corps veteran and LSU graduate, he is also an avid movie fan, especially of classic film noir from the 1940s and ’50s.

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  • As a native Las Vegan, I can't say I agreed with the way he went about revitalizing downtown. Yet there is no denying his passion. He wanted to leave the world a better place. I believe he accomplished that part of his dream. At a time when the richest have destroyed a great many dreams, this young man stood out. I am thankful for his true friends, like Jewel, who tried to reach out. He was an outstanding human. I hope his soul has found peace.

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Larry Henry