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It’s ‘unclear’ if Tony Hsieh received preferential treatment from Park City government or police, new book says

Former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, pictured at a 2015 event in Laguna Beach, Calif, died Friday at the age of 46.
Former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, pictured at a 2015 event in Laguna Beach, Calif

A new book by a pair of Wall Street Journal reporters sheds light on the brief time Zappos founder Tony Hsieh spent in Park City before his untimely death in November 2020.

Wall Street Journal reporters Kirsten Grind and Katherine Sayre said they spoke with over 200 people for their new book Happy at any Cost: The Revolutionary Vision and Fatal Quest of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh.

The book details Hsieh’s early rise in the late 90s and early 2000s as a Silicon Valley CEO, as well as his rapid decline in Park City in the summer of 2020 and tragic death later that year.

By the time Hsieh died on Nov. 27, 2020, following a Connecticut house fire, the 46-year-old had already left a mark on Park City.

The book says Hsieh purchased over one dozen properties in the Park City area in the summer of 2020 and discreetly retired as CEO of online shoe retailer Zappos later that August. Neighbors also complained of lavish and often rowdy parties at his 17,000-square-foot Aspen Springs property and he was also rumored to be a silent benefactor to many of Park City’s businesses in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grind told KPCW Hsieh had a utopian vision for Park City, but that vision was derailed by a descent into drug abuse and mental illness.

“Tony and his employees and the people around him were clearly trying to make inroads with the city and partner with them," said Grind. "It’s unclear if there was really preferential treatment, we had hoped to get more to the bottom of that.”

Emails shared with KPCW do show people associated with Hsieh reaching out to city staff that summer and attempting to set up a meeting with then-Mayor Andy Beerman.

In a statement to KPCW, Beerman said he declined an interview with the authors and had no relationship with Hsieh other than a brief in-person meeting he described as “purely social.” Beerman said he attended none of Hsieh’s events and had no communication with him.

Grind said Hsieh’s extravagant parties and increasingly erratic behavior are also addressed in the book. She said she and Sayre were unable to verify rumors of secret police visits and special treatment by the city.

“We really wanted to get some records from the mayor’s office about their communications with the Park City Police Department during the time that Tony was there," she said. "We were told that the records don’t actually exist, and that potentially the mayor had actually deleted something from his phone. As well as we couldn’t get what we needed from the Park City Police Department for some responsive calls to Tony’s mansions and properties.”

Beerman told KPCW that suggesting he deliberately withheld anything is untrue. He added he had no influence on the police department’s interactions with Hsieh, but said the department handles mental health issues with special care. He said he does not believe the city extended any special treatment to Hsieh beyond any normal “respect and discretion.”

Beerman added: “Tony’s struggle with mental health is tragic, but he was just one of many Park City residents suffering from fear, isolation, and/or hardship. These were difficult times, and I’m proud of how the Park City Police performed.”

The full interview with Grind and Sayre can be found here.