Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh's co-workers think addiction to laughing gas, drugs and vodka led to fire that took his life
Weeks after his demise, people close to Hsieh are revealing a dark picture of the CEO's heavy drug use and alcohol consumption, and how it escalated over recent months
The late CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh's colleagues were reportedly concerned about his increasing drug abuse at the time of his death. His friends reportedly also feared that the shoe magnate's frequent use of laughing gas – nitrous oxide – and his love of candles could have been the reason behind the fire that took his life last month.
One of his close colleagues said: "In recent months the nitrous oxide had become as important to Tony as his alcohol. And Grey Goose vodka was his best friend," according to the Daily Mail. Nitrous oxide is not a flammable gas, however, it can aid in burning of combustible material already on fire.
Hsieh, on November 18, was pulled unconscious from a burning shed attached to a waterfront home in New London, Connecticut soon after 3:30 AM. He succumbed to his injuries nine days later in the hospital. A dispatch tape reportedly revealed that Hsieh was "barricaded" inside the shed. The dispatcher reportedly said: "The male is barricaded inside and not answering the door. Everyone else is outside the house. They are trying to get him to open up."
Firefighters eventually had to force their way inside the shed to drag him out, however, it was too late to save Hsieh's life. The Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled the CEO's death as accidental and the cause of his death was determined complications of smoke inhalation. The CME's office, however, confirmed to the outlet that the ruling of the cause of his death was made before toxicology reports were completed. The reports are not due till after the New Year. The spokesperson for the officer, however, said: "But that will not change unless the medical examiner deems the tests relevant."
Weeks after his demise, people close to Hsieh are revealing a dark picture of the CEO's heavy drug use and how it escalated ever since he quit as the CEO of Zappos this summer. "His heavy alcohol and drug use was known by everyone around him," the colleague told the outlet. "Anyone that challenged him about it was cast aside. The talk among his former colleagues at Zappos is that Tony was likely in the shed blacked out drunk and on drugs. He was a major alcoholic and a drug addict. He was hardcore."
Hsieh, in a few interviews previously, had made a reference to his drug use and his love for all-night raves. He was deemed "the consummate partier" by the Vanity Fair who took Grey Goose shots "just because. He once told Playboy: "We trust our employees to use good judgment, which 99.9 percent of them do. We'd rather not create policies to address the 0.1 percent at the cost of fun for the other 99.9." The shoe magnate also loved going to the annual Burning Man celebration in Nevada, where open use of drugs is common.
Nitrous oxide, however, became Hsieh's ultimate drug of choice and he would take them in the form of "whippets" straight from the cartridge of a whipped cream dispenser. The colleague said: "He would take dozens of them a day. He lived a crazy, eccentric life. The drugs often made him hallucinate, he became paranoid — that could explain why he barricaded himself in. Tony was very fond of candles. He liked to set the atmosphere. The guess is that he managed to ignite one of the nitrous oxide canisters which caused a small explosion that killed him."