Zappos founder Tony Hsieh spent last hours planning to enter rehab
Eccentric Zappos shoe-company founder Tony Hsieh spent some of his final hours planning to enter rehab.
The 46-year-old multimillionaire — hammered by the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic and experimenting with psychedelic mushrooms and ecstasy — had finally accepted that he needed help and was making plans to enter a rehab clinic in Hawaii the night before he died early Nov. 27, they said.
Then, just before entering a shed on his girlfriend’s posh waterfront property in the wee hours, the on-edge Hsieh asked pals to check on him every 5 minutes, sources told the outlet.
Details of the ensuing fatal shed fire remain murky, although authorities have said the Harvard-educated business genius died from smoke inhalation and that the blaze was accidental.
But Hsieh’s obsessions and fascination with experimenting with his body — for example, trying to see how much food and oxygen he could live without — may provide some clues as to what happened.
He was entranced by fire — with a real-estate agent recalling seeing an estimated 1,000 candles in Hsieh’s Park City, Utah, home earlier this year, the Journal said.
Hsieh, who wrote a 2010 bestseller about his alternative path to success called “Delivering Happiness,’’ “explained to me that the candles were a symbol of what life was like in a simpler time,” the agent, Paul Benson, told the Journal.
The quirky entrepreneur, who sold his business to Amazon for $1 billion in 2009, also liked to use a heater in his girlfriend’s shed to decrease his oxygen level, sources told the media outlet.
Hsieh also inhaled nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, a k a whippets, to try to decrease his oxygen use, a pal told the Journal. Too much inhalation can cause a person to pass out, and the Daily Mail has quoted Hsieh’s friends as saying he might have been using whippets, which also would have increased the acceleration of combustibles around him, when he died.
But playing with his oxygen intake was only one part of Hsieh’s manipulation of his body.
Hsieh would go on a 26-day alphabet diet, in which he would only eat foods starting with a single letter each day, such as “a’’ the first 24 hours, “b’’ the second, and so on, nearly fasting by the letter “z,” a friend told the Journal.
He got down to 100 pounds at one point, the pal said.
Hsieh also would see how long he could go without urinating, the friend added.
Hsieh, the son of Taiwanese immigrants who was raised in California, had stepped down as CEO of Zappos in August.
Friends said the iconoclast — who had a pet alpaca named Marley and gave his employee-training chief the title of “zookeeper’’ — had been in a downward spiral for months, surrounding himself with “yes’’ men while increasing his drug and alcohol use.
A pal told the Journal that Hsieh was like “the Giving Tree’’ — the selfless character in the Shel Silverstein kiddie classic that gives so much of itself that it is left with nothing.