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Late billionaire Tony Hsieh was swindled out of millions of dollars by his assistant, filing claims

Late billionaire Tony Hsieh was swindled out of millions of dollars by his assistant while he grew emaciated and delusional from his drug addiction, his family has claimed in legal filings.

The eccentric entrepreneur’s vast wealth was looted through bizarre and ‘manipulative’ contracts written on sticky notes, cooked up by ‘so-called friends’ who let him spiral into drug abuse and severe mental illness, according to a counterclaim by his father and brother against his personal assistant, Jennifer ‘Mimi’ Pham, who sued his estate for $93million in February.

Hsieh amassed vast wealth selling his startup LinkExchange to Microsoft for $265million in 1998, and shoe company Zappos to Amazon in a $1.2billion deal.

Known for his generosity and unconventional methods – including running Zappos with no hierarchy – Hsieh grew an almost messianic following of artists and entrepreneurs in a community he helped revitalize in downtown Las Vegas.

But his family say that last year he went off the rails, abusing ketamine to self-medicate his social anxiety, inhaling up to 50 canisters of nitrous oxide – known as whippits – every day, and slipping into psychotic delusions that the world was a simulation, that he could download skills to his brain instantly like Neo in the Matrix and that he could transform into animals.

The family of late Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh has filed a complaint against his assistant, Mimi Pham (pictured together in 2014) accusing her of exploiting the troubled billionaire’s drug addiction to ‘squeeze’ him out of millions in his final weeks

Newly-unearthed photos obtained by DailyMail.com show the billionaire had grown emaciated in the months leading up to his death. A June 2020 photo shows a slim Hsieh with cannisters of nitrous oxide know as 'whippits' on the table to his right

Newly-unearthed photos obtained by DailyMail.com show the billionaire had grown emaciated in the months leading up to his death. A June 2020 photo shows a slim Hsieh with cannisters of nitrous oxide know as ‘whippits’ on the table to his right

The family's legal filing described how Hsieh's living conditions became increasingly hellish as he spiraled mentally and physically. He is pictured above in June 2020

The family’s legal filing described how Hsieh’s living conditions became increasingly hellish as he spiraled mentally and physically. He is pictured above in June 2020

Hsieh, who had amassed vast wealth selling shoe company Zappos to Amazon in a $1.2billion deal, died last November after barricading himself in a pool shed in New London, Connecticut (on the right) which later went up in flames

Hsieh, who had amassed vast wealth selling shoe company Zappos to Amazon in a $1.2billion deal, died last November after barricading himself in a pool shed in New London, Connecticut (on the right) which later went up in flames 

On November 18 the 46-year-old was hospitalized after barricading himself in a shed in Connecticut and starting a fire. He died nine days later.

Pham, Hsieh’s self-described ‘right-hand person’, sued his estate for $93million in February for ‘anticipated profit’ from a movie venture and a Utah hotel.

In August, Hsieh’s father Richard and brother Andy hit back with a counterclaim accusing Pham and her lawyer boyfriend of ‘abuse of fiduciary relationship’, preying on his vulnerable, drug-addled state to ‘exploit’, ‘manipulate’ and ‘squeeze’ him out of millions in his final weeks.

Pham has denied all the allegations of wrongdoing in a court-filed response. Her representatives declined to comment to DailyMail.com. 

The bereaved father and son’s filing, obtained by DailyMail.com, lays out a tragic timeline of Hsieh’s success and ‘extraordinary vision’, his descent into drug abuse and mental breakdown, and shocking claims of how Pham and her associates ‘excused and enabled Tony’s deteriorating condition in order to personally profit.’

Through her Nevada company, Baby Monster LLC, Pham concocted a series of outrageous contracts that would earn her and her boyfriend millions of dollars, according to the court claims.

Hsieh initially paid Pham a flat rate of $9,000 a month plus travel expenses. But last year her pay shot up to $30,000, plus a ‘10% commission’ on any funds she spent or invested for him, the documents say.

According to court documents filed by Hsieh's father and brother, Pham (pictured with entrepreneur Matt Mullenweg in 2013) - through her company Baby Monster - concocted a series of outrageous contracts that would earn her and her lawyer boyfriend Roberto Grande millions of dollars

According to court documents filed by Hsieh’s father and brother, Pham (pictured with entrepreneur Matt Mullenweg in 2013) – through her company Baby Monster – concocted a series of outrageous contracts that would earn her and her lawyer boyfriend Roberto Grande millions of dollars

Pham has denied all the allegations of wrongdoing in a court-filed response

Pham has denied all the allegations of wrongdoing in a court-filed response

In a filing responding to Hsieh's family's counterclaim, Pham denied allegations of 'abuse of fiduciary relationship'

In a filing responding to Hsieh’s family’s counterclaim, Pham denied allegations of ‘abuse of fiduciary relationship’

The commission was for ‘virtually anything and everything imaginable, with no oversight whatsoever – which increased her income, in a single year, by millions of dollars,’ the family alleged, adding that ‘this drastic increase in Pham’s compensation coincided with Tony’s debilitating addiction to Ketamine.’

After developing a jealous ‘feud’ with another of Tony’s associates who was also allegedly receiving commission from him, Suzie Baleson, Pham created a bizarre contract in which she would be paid $30,000 every day that Baleson was on Tony’s property, the filing claimed.

Through her company, Pham invoiced Tony for $1,830,000 between mid-September and his death in November last year – and received ‘at least $420,000’, the counter-complaint said.

The payment was ‘a testament to the toxic influence Pham exerted over Tony,’ the documents said.

The allegedly jealous assistant would even monitor Hsieh ‘against his wishes’ via a camera in his bedroom in Park City, Utah, while she was at her home in Las Vegas, the suit claimed.

In the most shocking claim of financial abuse, a $10million contract was allegedly written on a sticky note to fund documentary company XTR’s film projects and other joint ventures through Hsieh’s firm Pickled Entertainment.

Pham’s California lawyer boyfriend Roberto Grande was to receive $1million as part of the deal, the court filing claimed.

Grande and Pham were then to funnel all the profits from the investments through a company, Mr. Taken LLC, from which they would take 55 per cent. 

Pham then charged a further 10 per cent ‘management fee’ for the attorney’s fees for documenting the $1million payment, the filing said.

Hsieh's family would later reveal that the billionaire had been struggling with addiction and became hooked on ketamine when he began 'searching for a healthier, non-habit-forming alternative to alcohol' in late 2019

Hsieh’s family would later reveal that the billionaire had been struggling with addiction and became hooked on ketamine when he began ‘searching for a healthier, non-habit-forming alternative to alcohol’ in late 2019

The Hsieh family claimed that in October - a month before his death -   Hsieh's 'mental and physical health reached rock bottom'

The Hsieh family claimed that in October – a month before his death –   Hsieh’s ‘mental and physical health reached rock bottom’

According to the Hsieh family, around early October, Grande told XTR that Tony had approved an additional $7.5million, even though at the time the billionaire had ‘ordered a 30-day hold on all projects that he was working on.’

The allegedly swindling couple then told their lawyer to revise Grande’s $1million commission to $1.75million, the filing claimed.

Hsieh was hospitalized on November 18 after setting fire to his shed, but while he was unconscious and days from death, Grande told Pickled Entertainment’s lawyer to prepare the new agreement, according to the counter-complaint.

The documents were sent to the parties for signing three days after Tony died and before his brother and father were appointed as ‘co-special administrators’ the filing said.

Hsieh offered financial manager and friend Tony Lee $1.5million, nearly double his current salary of $810,000, to handle all his finances in Park City, Utah, where the entrepreneur retreated during the pandemic.

Through their companies, Pham and Grande signed a contract with Lee on August 15 2020 for $4.5million over three years for ‘due diligence on potential investments to be made by PCVI or Tony Hsieh, as directed by [Baby Monster]’ – and $450,000 to Pham and Grande for their 10% commission, the court filing claimed.

Two weeks later, they amended the contract, extending it to five years and increasing his pay to $7.5million, the documents said.

Lee has launched his own lawsuit against Hsieh’s estate, claiming that he should have been bought out of his contract for $7million when the bereaved father and son took over the finances and dismissed him in January 2021.

Lee’s lawyers have asked Clark County, Nevada Judge Susan Johnson to dismiss the Hsieh family’s counterclaims, slamming them as ‘salacious allegations’ which ‘further offer up innocent associates of Tony Hsieh… as villains.’

In legal documents Lee’s attorneys denied any ‘eleventh-hour scramble to exploit and embezzle Tony Hsieh as his health faded’ and claimed Hsieh had in fact been trying to hire Lee since 2003, and that the money manager turned down an even more extravagant salary of $3million offered by Hsieh so as not to exploit his friend.

The billionaire was famous for his drinking, offering shots to visitors, including journalists who came to interview him, and lining his walls with empty vodka bottles.

Hsieh was staying at his girlfriend Rachael Brown's home, and had gotten into an argument with her the night of the fire about the cleanliness of the house, according to a friend

Hsieh was staying at his girlfriend Rachael Brown’s home, and had gotten into an argument with her the night of the fire about the cleanliness of the house, according to a friend

A report by the fire marshal found that Hsieh had lit candles, a propane heater, whippit nitrous oxide chargers, whip cream dispenser, a marijuana pipe, and bottles of alcohol with him at the time of the blaze

A report by the fire marshal found that Hsieh had lit candles, a propane heater, whippit nitrous oxide chargers, whip cream dispenser, a marijuana pipe, and bottles of alcohol with him at the time of the blaze

His family wrote that he was ‘using alcohol as a social lubricant to alleviate his social anxiety’, but that he became hooked on ketamine when he began ‘searching for a healthier, non-habit-forming alternative to alcohol’ in late 2019.

‘It immediately caused Tony to suffer from disorganized delusions and delusions of grandeur,’ the Hsieh family wrote in the lawsuit.

Friends noticed him growing ‘increasingly agitated and obsessed’ and ‘sleeping only 2-4 hours per night’, and eventually convinced him in February 2020 to spend two weeks in a Park City rehab, away from his Vegas associates who ‘had been supplying Tony with Ketamine and partying on his bankroll.’

The legal filing claimed Pham was well aware of Hsieh’s vulnerability, having helped book the rehab stint for him – and witnessed him emerge still suffering from delusions.

By May 2020, when Hsieh started to believe he possessed psychic abilities and could levitate, his close friends decide to take him on a restorative bus trip to a ranch in Montana, the documents said.

‘When it was time to depart Tony’s residence, Tony boarded the bus wearing only pajama pants (no shirt or shoes), and brought only a box of crayons with him (no suitcase),’ the filing said.

‘During this period of time, Tony would frequently appear in social settings and conduct ‘meetings’ wearing only underwear, something he had never previously done.

According to Hsieh's family, Pham was well aware of Hsieh's vulnerability and that he was in 'no condition to consider, let alone approve, significant investments or contracts for investments'

According to Hsieh’s family, Pham was well aware of Hsieh’s vulnerability and that he was in ‘no condition to consider, let alone approve, significant investments or contracts for investments’

The court filings claim Pham, Grande and others 'deliberately profited from their insider status' and Hsieh's 'vulnerability', nonetheless

The court filings claim Pham, Grande and others ‘deliberately profited from their insider status’ and Hsieh’s ‘vulnerability’, nonetheless 

Hsieh initially paid Pham a flat rate of $9,000 a month plus travel expenses. But last year her pay shot up to $30,000, plus a '10% commission' on any funds she spent or invested for him, the documents say

Hsieh initially paid Pham a flat rate of $9,000 a month plus travel expenses. But last year her pay shot up to $30,000, plus a ‘10% commission’ on any funds she spent or invested for him, the documents say

‘On the bus, Tony offered a friend one million dollars to serve as his alarm clock the following morning. The offering of exorbitant sums of money to people to perform ministerial tasks became a frequent occurrence while Tony was under the influence.

‘Tony retreated to his room on the bus where he is believed to have consumed hallucinogenic drugs. As the bus arrived in Montana, the drugs apparently caused Tony to believe he was caught in an active shooter situation. Tony began to physically destroy his tour bus, which was one of his most prized possessions.

‘Then, while still on the bus, Tony asked his friends to join a suicide pact with him.

‘To achieve the suicide pact, Tony stated he would burn the bus with all of the passengers inside.’

Returning to Park City, he switched from ketamine to nitrous oxide, using up to 50 cartridges a day, his family said.

The family’s legal filing described how Hsieh’s living conditions became increasingly hellish as he spiraled mentally and physically.

‘The house was littered with thousands of empty nitrous oxide containers, broken glass, dog feces, and rotten food,’ the documents said.

‘A stream was reportedly re-routed to the patio so that residents and guests could wash their dishes using a ‘natural dishwasher.’ Electricity was replaced with hundreds of candles and tiki torches prompting calls to local law enforcement.

‘The smoke alarms would sound late into the evening due to the sheer number of candles scattered throughout the house.

‘On one occasion Tony stepped on the glass, cutting his foot. He proceeded to walk around the house leaving a trail of blood behind him. The blood trail, according to Tony, would make it easier to find him.’

Tony Hsieh and girlfriend Rachael Brown in Las Vegas on June 7, 2014

Tony Hsieh and girlfriend Rachael Brown in Las Vegas on June 7, 2014

The Hsieh family claimed that in October, as Hsieh’s ‘mental and physical health reached rock bottom’, Pham started telling Tony’s entourage that he was running out of money and that she would start charging rent at his properties, with 10% commission for herself.

‘Pham went so far as to lock Tony’s brother out of his house unless he agreed to pay rent, a demand Tony later rejected,’ the court filing said.

The billionaire was so emaciated at this point that his brother ‘asked those preparing Tony’s meals to slip vitamins and protein supplements into his food.’

‘As Tony’s condition continued to deteriorate, a close friend of Tony’s pleaded with Pham that Tony was going to die, but Pham dismissed the statement describing Tony as an adult free to make his own decisions, however reckless,’ the lawsuit claimed.

The lawsuit revealed that his family attempted to put Hsieh under a conservatorship, but when they flew an addiction specialist to Park city to stage an intervention, they were ‘denied access to Tony’s residence.’

‘It was obvious to Pham, Grande, Lee and others that he was physically and mentally unwell, and that he was in no condition to consider, let alone approve, significant investments or contracts for investments,’ the family wrote.

‘Witnesses who saw Tony at this time describe him as having lost a tremendous amount of weight. Witnesses describe a belief that Tony’s death was imminent.’ 


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