Retired Zappos CEO’s Death Accidental, State Officials Say

The death of retired Chief Executive Officer Tony Hsieh was ruled accidental and related to complications from smoke inhalation, according to Connecticut’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Hsieh died Friday following injuries sustained in a Nov. 18 house fire. He was 46.

The state agency issued a brief emailed statement in response to inquiries from Bloomberg, saying the death was caused by “complications of smoke inhalation,” and ruled an “accident.” Officials in New London, Connecticut, where the fire occurred, said the blaze remains under investigation.

A Harvard University graduate, Hsieh was a dot-com era success. He joined Zappos in 1999 when it was called and led it for two decades. Inc. purchased the company for $1.2 billion in 2009, and Hsieh remained CEO until stepping down in August.

Hsieh’s success selling shoes online stood out because people traditionally preferred to try them on before buying. He was also a popular speaker at tech events due to an unorthodox management style called “holacracy,” which spread decision-making throughout the organization without considering individual rank.

Hsieh lived in a trailer park in downtown Las Vegas that attracted creative people working on the strip and featured a free-roaming pet alpaca. His death was mourned by high-profile members of the tech industry, including Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos, as well as Las Vegas dignitaries who got to know Hsieh after he invested in the downtown area where Zappos is based.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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