Tony Hsieh was known for making a fortune at Zappos selling shoes online and leading an unorthodox lifestyle. He lived an Airstream trailer with a pet alpaca and had a fondness for the Burning Man festival.
He also was a major real estate investor in Las Vegas who, in a short period, became a dominant property owner downtown.
Hsieh, who died Friday at age 46 from complications of smoke inhalation after being injured in a house fire in Connecticut, launched a side venture in 2012, then called Downtown Project, that would ultimately have a huge footprint in Las Vegas with dozens of properties in its portfolio.
Now DTP Companies, the venture acquired vacant lots, old motels, apartment buildings and other properties; developed the open-air retail complex Downtown Container Park and, with a partner, the Fremont9 apartment complex; turned the old Fergusons motel into a commercial complex with small retail shops; and, just in October, purchased Zappos’ headquarters, the former Las Vegas City Hall, for $65 million.
Bill Arent, the city’s director of economic and urban development, told the Review-Journal on Monday that DTP is among the biggest property owners downtown.
Outside Las Vegas, Hsieh also went on a homebuying spree in the wealthy ski town of Park City, Utah, this year, acquiring at least eight homes as of August, including a 17,350-square-foot mansion with a sports court, private lake and horseback riding corral.
It’s unclear what will happen with Hsieh’s real estate holdings. His lawyer, Puoy Premsrirut, did not respond to an email Monday asking whether Hsieh left a will or if she expects to file a probate case.
DTP assembled its real estate portfolio quickly, acquiring entire city blocks along Fremont Street, and today still hasn’t built out or redeveloped multiple sites, including some shuttered, decades-old motels.
“Candidly, we bought all these blocks a few years ago with no idea of what we were going to do with them,” DTP’s then-real estate portfolio manager, John Curran, told the Review-Journal in a 2017 interview about the motels.
Overall, Hsieh’s venture had assembled a portfolio of some 90 properties by then, Curran said at the time.
It invested heavily in a once-neglected area of Las Vegas that grappled with prostitution and drugs, locals say. When the business was beginning, “people laughed at us” and said the group was “nuts,” said Todd Kessler, a partner and attorney with Resort Gaming Group, Zappos’ former landlord at the old City Hall, and who helped launch DTP.
He said DTP’s pot of money was “100 percent” Hsieh’s, and the group ended up spending “a lot more” than $350 million.
Hsieh’s impact downtown, he noted, was “tremendous.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.