LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Lawyers for a friend of late Zappos CEO and Las Vegas entrepreneur Tony Hsieh allege Hsieh’s brother provided him with canisters of nitrous oxide and alcohol in his final year of life, court documents obtained by the I-Team said.
Tony Lee, who identifies himself as a friend of Hsieh’s since 2003, filed a lawsuit in April seeking $7 million of Hsieh’s estate. Previous court documents have estimated the estate to be worth $840 million. As the I-Team reported earlier this year, Hsieh died without a will.
Hsieh died in a house fire in November 2020 in Connecticut. He was 46. In December, a judge named his father, Richard Hsieh, and brother, Andrew “Andy” Hsieh, as special administrators to his estate.
In court filings, the family, through their lawyers, claim some people in Hsieh’s inner circle allowed him to enter into contracts, even as his health deteriorated due to longtime substance misuse, records said.
In court documents, lawyers write Hsieh’s longtime assistant Jennifer “Mimi” Pham; Pham’s boyfriend, Roberto Grande; and Lee, are accused of taking advantage of Hsieh as his physical and mental health declined, the family claims.
Lee provided “assistance” to Hsieh at times, involving business ventures in Vegas, the lawsuit filed in April said.
In November 2019, Hsieh’s family said he began to experiment with ketamine, which in high doses can lead to hallucinations, they said. In 2020, Hsieh began using nitrous oxide as a replacement for other drugs he was taking.
Nitrous oxide, or whippets, sometimes also called laughing gas, is sold as cartridges that are inhaled. According to friends, Hsieh used “as many as 50 cartridges of nitrous oxide a day, often in public, or during ‘meetings’ with people,” documents said.
In January, two months after Hsieh’s death, Lee was notified his contract was terminated. The lawsuit claims Lee is entitled to the rest of the payment in his contract.
In court documents filed in response to the family’s claims, Lee’s attorneys write, “As an illustration, it was Andy [Hsieh] that arraigned for the purchase of thousands of canisters of nitrous oxide at an alarming rate for Tony Hsieh’s continued use when others who cared for Mr. Hsieh refused to do so.”
Court documents have claimed Hsieh’s bedroom was “littered with hundreds of spent nitrous oxide cartridges.”
“It was Andy that plied Tony Hsieh with alcohol during Mr. Hsieh’s final months,” the documents from Mr. Lee’s lawyers said. In addition, they write in court documents Hsieh suffered from cirrhosis, damage to the liver from excessive alcohol use.
Lee’s response also contains the allegation that Andrew Hsieh worked to “siphon money from his brother while he was alive.”
In October 2020, Hsieh’s brother became so concerned about his brother’s health, he asked that “vitamins and protein supplements” be slipped into his food, documents said. Andrew Hsieh had been offered a $1 million salary to take care of his brother at the time, previous court records said.
Richard Hsieh hired an addiction specialist to travel to his son’s home, but the specialist was denied access to the residence, court documents said. It was around this time that Hsieh resigned as Zappos CEO.
According to witness reports relayed during the investigation into his death, Hsieh was lying in a storage area with a blanket near candles. Part of the blanket and a plastic bag had caught fire earlier in the night, a report obtained by the I-Team said.
Through replies in court, Pham, Grande and Lee have denied any wrongdoing.
“Pham, Grande and Lee knew Tony was unwell,” court documents from the family’s attorneys said. “Each had physically observed or received reports of Tony’s significant weight loss. Each had physically observed or received reports of Tony’s excessive intake of nitrous oxide. Pham joked about Tony’s use of nitrous oxide, referring to it as his ‘gun.’”
Lawyers for Pham, Grande and Lee have not returned requests for comment. A spokesperson for Hsieh’s family and lawyers for his estate have repeatedly declined to comment on the ongoing legal matters.
In a court filing in September, Andrew Hsieh and Richard Hsieh each asked a court to grant them $1 million in administrative fees.