Early JetSuite investor Tony Hsieh, the former Zappos CEO, died in Connecticut on Friday after a house fire
Tony Hsieh, who died on Friday from complications after being rescued from a fire in a home he was staying at in Connecticut, is best known for Zappos, the company he sold to Amazon for $1.2 billion. His net worth, according to Forbes, was $840 million. He was also an early investor in JetSuite and served on its board until 2019.
Hsieh was part of a $7 million round of funding in September 2011. He joined fellow celebrity business executive David Neeleman, best known as the founder of JetBlue.
To me (JetSuite) really felt like it was the Zappos of private air travel
-Tony Hsieh, JetSuite investor and former Zappos CEO
Alex Wilcox, JetSuite’s CEO, said at the time, “This is a dream team board for a disruptive business such as ours. Our board brings the perfect combination of visionary experience, proven results, and new distribution models for old products, all of which will contribute mightily to our re-invention of the private jet industry.”
Hsieh commented, “I’ve always been passionate about delivering unique experiences and great customer service. JetSuite provides a level of service unparalleled in the airline industry. I’m excited to be a part of this innovative company.”
According to the press release, in 1999, at the age of 24, Hsieh sold LinkExchange, the company he co-founded, to Microsoft for $265 million. He then joined Zappos.com as an advisor and investor. Eventually, he became CEO. He helped Zappos.com grow from almost no sales to over $1 billion in gross merchandise sales annually while simultaneously making Fortune magazine’s annual “Best Companies to Work For” list.
In November 2009, Zappos.com was acquired by Amazon.com in a deal valued at $1.2 billion on closing. Hsieh’s first book, Delivering Happiness, debuted at #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list and outlined his path from starting a worm farm to life at Zappos.com.
In a 2012 interview with Business Jet Traveler, Hsieh said he first knew JetSuite as a customer. After bad experiences with other operators, he reached out to Wilcox. He went on to say, “I think of it as like a Southwest Airlines or JetBlue of private aviation, and there’s an opportunity to build a brand, and it’s so much cheaper than going through the higher-end options.” He added, “To me, it really felt like it was the Zappos of private air travel.”
As of March 2020, Hsieh’s interests were apparently represented on the JetSuite board by Millie Chou, who serves as general counsel of Downtown Project, Hsieh’s effort to aid in the revitalization of Downtown Las Vegas.