The Zappos Visionary Was 'in Trouble' When He Died

Tony Hsieh, a grandiose dreamer, was indulging in extreme behavior
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 6, 2020 5:00 PM CST
The Zappos Visionary Was 'in Trouble' When He Died
In this Sept. 30, 2013, file photo, Tony Hsieh speaks during a Grand Rapids Economic Club luncheon in Grand Rapids, Mich.   (Cory Morse/The Grand Rapids Press via AP, File)

(Newser) – The visionary who co-founded Zappos fell into a spiral of extreme behavior—including drugs, alcohol, and self-starvation—before dying last month in a house fire, the Wall Street Journal reports. "Tony is in trouble," an insider warned one of Tony Hsieh's old friends. Indeed, people say Hsieh had moved to Utah, surrounded himself with employees who let him indulge, and began taking ecstasy and mushrooms as he struggled with pandemic isolation. He also intensified his fascination with fire, burning some 1,000 candles at home to recreate "a simpler time," he reportedly said. "I am going to be blunt," the singer Jewel wrote her longtime friend, per 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 former executive seemed to agree. He even made plans the day before the fire to enter a Hawaii rehabilitation clinic. But when emergency workers tried saving him from a burning Connecticut house where he was staying, Hsieh was either trapped or barricaded inside. It was a strange death for someone so committed to others—who had given friends houses and restaurants, pumped $350 million into downtown Las Vegas, and blended "his personal and professional lives into a quest for spiritual union with his colleagues," per the Journal. But the 46-year-old was retired from Zappos and lost on the dark side of his dreams. "This is my elegy, Tony," Jewel said in a video after his death, per People. "I have never managed to sing while I cry. But here the tears flowed." (Read more about the cause of his death.)

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