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Nov. 29, 2020, 9:23 a.m. EST

Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO and business-book author, dead at 46 after Connecticut fire

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Associated Press

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Tony Hsieh, the retired CEO of Las Vegas-based online shoe retailer Zappos.com, who spent years working to transform the city’s downtown area, has died. He was two weeks away from his 47th birthday.

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, Conn., Megan Fazio, a spokesperson for Downtown Partnership in Las Vegas, told Hearst Connecticut Media on Saturday.

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

Fire Chief Thomas Curcio was quoted by the Day as saying that crews arrived around 3:30 a.m. after a report of that someone had been trapped in part of the house; that firefighters had to force their way in; and that they removed the victim, performed CPR and took him to a hospital.

Hsieh, an Illinois native raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and a 1995 graduate of Harvard University, recently retired from Zappos after 20 years at the company’s helm. His leadership of the company made him a new-era business-management guru, with a New Yorker profile in 2009 labeling Hsieh the architect not just of a company culture centered on “Zappiness” but of a broader happiness-spreading movement.

He became a motivational speaker and author .

The online shoe retailer shared a tribute on social media late Friday: “The world has lost a tremendous visionary and an incredible human being,” the statement said. “His spirit will forever be a part of Zappos.”

Hsieh joined the company — then called ShoeSite.com — in 1999. Zappos was sold to Amazon for $1.2 billion in 2009, but Hsieh had remained with the company until his retirement.

From the MarketWatch archives (June 2010): Zappos, under Amazon, keeps its independent streak

“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.”

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,” tweeted entrepreneur Max Levchin.

Ali Partovi, CEO of the venture-capital firm Neo and a partner in one of Hsieh’s earliest ventures, the internet advertising company LinkExchange, said in a Saturday tweet that 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.

MarketWatch contributed.

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