Tony Hsieh’s Nitrous Oxide Use, Love of Candles May Have Contributed to Tragic Death

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Sharon Waxman and Sean Burch
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Former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s affinity for nitrous oxide, alcohol and candles concerned those closest to him in his final days — and has led some to believe his hard-partying ways contributed to his inability to escape the fire that ultimately killed him, TheWrap has learned.

In the months leading up to his Nov. 27 death in Connecticut, Hsieh, 46, had gone on a buying spree in Park City, Utah, the posh mountain town that is home to the Sundance Film Festival and a go-to vacation spot for celebrities like Will Smith, Robert Redford and Michael Jordan.

The entrepreneur raised eyebrows there with his use of nitrous oxide and massive use of candles – a dangerous combination.

“People in Park City say Tony Hsieh was high on nitrous oxide all the time and behaved very erratically — Howard Hughes-style — with 500 candles burning in his home — creating a fire threat that the local fire department had to manage,” a person with knowledge of Hsieh’s relationships in Park City told TheWrap.

Also Read: Tony Hsieh's Bizarre Death Details Emerge: Former Zappos CEO Was 'Locked' In Basement

Since March, Hseih had purchased 15 Park City homes, totaling 57 bedrooms, 71.5 bathrooms and more than 68,000 square feet, according to Curbed. Throw in two vacant lots he purchased, and Hseih’s Park City investment was worth around $56 million.

Park City Fire District reps did not respond to TheWrap’s request for comment. Nitrous oxide is not flammable but can accelerate the burning process.

It’s unclear why Hsieh had spent millions on Park City real estate; one possibility is that he was looking for a new tech hub to replicate his success in revitalizing downtown Las Vegas where he’d invested hundreds of millions of dollars.

Also Read: Tony Hsieh, Former Zappos CEO, Dies at 46

The Daily Mail on Wednesday also reported that Hsieh’s drug use worried those closest to him and had accelerated since stepping down as Zappos CEO last summer. Hsieh’s “drug of choice” was nitrous oxide, the site reported, in the form of “whippets” from whipped cream dispensers.

“His heavy alcohol and drug use was known by everyone around him,” one unnamed colleague told the Daily Mail. “Anyone that challenged him about it was cast aside.”

The colleague said many in his inner circle are now asking if Hsieh’s drug use could have played a role in his tragic death.

Early on the morning of Nov. 18, firefighters were called to a home in New London, Connecticut, and told Hsieh was trapped inside, according to the Hartford Courant. Hsieh was pulled unconscious from the home and CPR was administered before he was later taken to a local hospital. He died last Friday, nine days after the fire. Medical examiners on Monday ruled it an accident and said his death was due to injuries caused by smoke inhalation.

Still, the circumstances surrounding Hsieh’s death remain unclear. An emergency dispatcher, in audio obtained by The Daily Mail, said the fire was in a “shed that is attached to the exterior of the house,” and that a “male is barricaded inside” and unresponsive. “Everyone else is outside the house,” the dispatcher said. “They are trying to get him to open up.” Later, New London Fire Captain Brian Wright said that people at the home told firefighters Hsieh was “locked inside” a storage area and that first responders had to bust the door in to get to him.

The discrepancies have left a handful of lingering questions, including whether Hsieh was “barricaded” or “locked” inside the room. The fire, as well as Hsieh’s inability to escape it, could be tied to his drug use, the colleague said.

“The talk among his former colleagues at Zappos is that Tony was likely in the shed blacked out drunk and on drugs,” the colleague said. “He was a major alcoholic and a drug addict. He was hardcore.”

Also Read: Tony Hsieh's Bizarre Death Details Emerge: Former Zappos CEO Was 'Locked' In Basement

The son of Taiwanese immigrants, Hsieh graduated from Harvard University before embarking on a successful career as an entrepreneur, venture capitalist and civic leader.

Prior to joining Zappos, Hsieh co-founded the online advertising network LinkExchange, which he sold to Microsoft in 1998 for $265 million.

While at Zappos, he also became a leading figure in public and private efforts to redevelop downtown Las Vegas. In 2013, he moved Zappos’ headquarters to the former Las Vegas City Hall building and pledged $350 million to other revitalization efforts.

“Tony Hsieh played a pivotal role in helping transform Downtown Las Vegas,” Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak tweeted. “Kathy and I send our love and condolences to Tony’s family and friends during this difficult time.”

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Read original story Tony Hsieh’s Nitrous Oxide Use, Love of Candles May Have Contributed to Tragic Death At TheWrap