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 purchased luxury items after his death, according to court documents.
Tony Hsieh died in a house fire in November 2020 in Connecticut. He was 46. That December, a judge named Tony Hsieh’s father, Richard Hsieh, and brother, Andrew “Andy” Hsieh, as co-administrators of his estate. Andy Hsieh resigned from his position this summer.
Tony Lee, who identifies himself as a friend of Hsieh’s since 2003, filed a lawsuit in April 2021 seeking $7 million of Hsieh’s estate. Previous court documents have estimated the estate to be worth $840 million. Hsieh died without a will, leaving his wealth to be divided up in probate.
In November 2019, Tony Hsieh began to experiment with ketamine, which in high doses can lead to hallucinations, his family wrote in court documents. 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, Tony Hsieh used “as many as 50 cartridges of nitrous oxide a day, often in public, or during ‘meetings’ with people,” documents said.
In July 2020, Tony Hsieh met with Lee in Park City, Utah, where, according to a lawsuit, Tony Hsieh attempted to recruit Lee to “develop another community like downtown Las Vegas… but better,” court documents said.
That August, Lee agreed to a $1.5 million salary to work for Tony Hsieh, his lawsuit said, leaving his job as a financial manager in Texas. He also agreed to a five-year contract.
In January 2021, 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 a filing dated Sept. 16, lawyers for Lee allege Andy Hsieh resigned as co-administrator of his brother’s estate as a “result of an audit that was recently conducted concerning Andy’s use of Estate funds,” documents said.
“After Tony Hsieh’s death, Andy allegedly spent $200,000 on a new Mercedes Sprinter and over $100,000 for a personal nutritionist and training plan using estate funds,” documents from Lee’s attorneys said. “An accounting is thus necessary to determine whether the estate has sufficient funds to cover all creditor’s claims once adjudicated and/or resolved, and the July 21, 2022 order should include this requirement before Andy is fully released from his liability to the estate.”
According to the court documents, Andy Hsieh “was negotiating and finalizing his $1 million per year contract with his brother” in the months before Tony Hsieh’s untimely death.
“Andy thought his brother lacked the requisite capacity to approve his own contract,” lawyers for Lee write in court documents. “During this same timeframe, Andy was providing Hsieh with increasing amounts of nitrous oxide with no concerns that his brother was mentally incompetent. Yet, Andy hypocritically asserts that Lee (among others) took advantage of Hsieh in the final months of his life.”
A videotaped deposition of Andy Hsieh recorded in February details Tony Hsieh’s living conditions.
“And his room looked like a homeless shelter,” Andy Hsieh said in the deposition, which is provided in the court documents. “I mean, there was feces on the ground. Plants in his toilets. Broken glass, broken plates all over the ground. Rotten food under the bed. Rotten food on the walls.”
Lee’s attorneys also allege Andy Heish “was not only in charge of the nitrous oxide supply,” but also “[made sure] thousands upon thousands of whippets were available and on hand at all times.” Evidence citing that claim is redacted in the publicly available document.
In the filing, Lee’s lawyers ask a judge for a hearing about Andy Hsieh’s resignation as co-administrator of the estate.
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. Andy Hsieh had been offered a $1 million salary to take care of his brother at the time, previous court records said.
Lawyers for Lee have never 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 last September, Andrew Hsieh and Richard Hsieh each asked a court to grant them $1 million in administrative fees.
Lawyers for Lee made similar claims in court documents filed last fall but later removed the allegations from the lawsuit.