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Tony Hsieh, key figure in downtown Las Vegas revitalization, dies at age 46

Tony Hsieh, the former chief executive of Zappos who pumped a fortune into downtown Las Vegas and became the face of its revitalization, died Friday.

He was 46.

Megan Fazio, spokeswoman for Hsieh’s side venture DTP Companies, confirmed Hsieh’s death in an email Friday night. She did not release the cause of death.

“Tony’s kindness and generosity touched the lives of everyone around him, and forever brightened the world,” the statement said. “Delivering happiness was always his mantra, so instead of mourning his transition, we ask you to join us in celebrating his life.”

It added: “On behalf of all DTP Companies employees and staff, we would like to express our deepest condolences to Tony’s family and friends who have all lost Tony as a cherished loved one, visionary and friend. Tony was highly regarded by all of his fellow friends and colleagues in the tight-knit family at DTP Companies, so this heartbreaking tragedy is one that affects many involved.”

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman called Hsieh’s death “a tragic loss.”

“Tony meant so much to Las Vegas, always dreaming, working to inspire and leading others to create a new vision for tomorrow. Our prayers and sympathies to his family,” she said.

Zappos’ new chief executive, Kedar Deshpande, its former chief operating officer, told the company Friday night in an internal memo, obtained by the Review-Journal, that the online shoe seller “lost our inspiring former leader” and that “many of you have also lost a mentor and a friend.”

“Tony played such an integral part in helping create the thriving Zappos business we have today, along with his passion for helping to support and drive our company culture,” Deshpande wrote.

He also said in the email the company would be exploring ways to celebrate Hsieh’s life in the coming days.

A Zappos spokeswoman did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday night.

Gov. Steve Sisolak tweeted Friday night that Hsieh “played a pivotal role in helping transform” downtown Las Vegas.

Myron Martin, president and CEO of The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, said Hsieh “was a friend and a loyal supporter” of the downtown venue.

Hsieh donated $1 million to the Smith Center and bought all the tickets in his box and gave them to his employees, Martin said.

“I will miss his ‘all-hands’ staff meetings in Reynolds Hall, and the epic after-parties in Symphony Park,” Martin said. ”Mostly, I will miss his kindness.”

Hsieh moved Zappos from Henderson to the old Las Vegas City Hall in 2013. He also launched a side company, then called Downtown Project, to put $350 million into real estate, restaurants, tech startups and other ventures in the Fremont Street area, becoming a dominant property owner there.

Hsieh retired from Zappos and was replaced as its chief executive in August without a formal announcement from the company he had led for two decades after embarking on a homebuying binge this year in the wealthy ski town of Park City, Utah.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Contact Eli Segall at esegall@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0342. Follow @eli_segall on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writers Subrina Hudson and John Katsilometes contributed to this report.

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