Tony Hsieh, Former Zappos CEO, 46
Tony Hsieh, the celebrated entrepreneur who built the online shoe retailer Zappos.com into a $1 billion footwear-and-clothing company and spearheaded a revitalization of downtown Las Vegas, died Nov. 27. Hsieh succumbed to injuries from a Nov. 18 New London, Conn., house fire, according to a statement from DTP, formerly the Downtown Project Las Vegas, which Hsieh founded in 2012.
Hsieh was a computer-science graduate of Harvard University. He was among the first wave of entrepreneurs who developed e-commerce from a startup market to one of the dominating forces of retail. In 1998, he sold his first company, LinkExchange, an online advertising network, to Microsoft for $265 million, according to the New York Times.
Eventually, Hsieh invested in a San Francisco-based retail startup called ShoeSite.com. Serving as the brand's chief executive officer beginning in 1999, he renamed the site Zappos, after zapatos, the Spanish word for shoes. At Zappos, he encouraged a business culture that was considered unconventional at the time but has been credited for the company’s skyrocketing growth. In his bestselling 2010 book “Delivering Happiness,” he wrote that happy employees helped to develop an environment that created satisfied customers.
Hsieh’s creed emphasized joy and a spirit of discovery, according to his LinkedIn profile. “Let’s fall down the rabbit hole, together,” he wrote on his social-media page. “Let’s choose our own adventure and follow our own blues in this thing we call life. Let’s create a better world, together. Let’s imagine.”
In August 2020, he retired from helming Zappos to focus on revitalizing Downtown Las Vegas. Hsieh’s passing was met with an outpouring of grief and affection from luminaries and stars of the worlds of fashion, technology, venture capital and politics including supermodel and venture capitalist Tyra Banks, who wrote on Twitter, “Mentor, friend, visionary, embracer of weirdness & oh so much fun. You didn’t see the world how it was, but how U wanted it to be.”
Bill Hornbuckle, president and chief executive officer of MGM Resorts International also released a statement. “Tony Hsieh was a unique visionary who leaves an indelible mark on Las Vegas and the world,” Hornbuckle said. “He touched countless lives in our community and brought to life a vision for Downtown Las Vegas that will continue to grow and flourish.”