Zappos CEO resigns, one year after Tony Hsieh’s death

Kedar Deshpande is stepping down as managing director of online shoe retailer Zappos, a year after replacing Tony Hsieh, the company’s executive who died last year. A company-wide email was sent Tuesday night from Deshpande announcing his resignation, according to three sources.

Zappos and its parent company, Amazon, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A source said Forbes that the company’s vice president of finance, Scott Schaefer, will take over as interim CEO. The company plans to hold a live question-and-answer session with employees on Wednesday morning. The source said Deshpande has another role aligned with a publicly traded company, although he has not announced which one.

Deshpande, previously Zappos’ COO, took over as CEO in August 2020, shortly after the company abruptly announced Hsieh’s retirement after 21 years at the helm. Three months later, Hsieh, 46, died of injuries from a house fire in New London, Connecticut.

Born in India, Deshpande came to the United States to study at the University of Nevada in Reno, where he obtained a computer engineering degree. He joined Zappos in 2011 after working at PepsiCo and General Electric in various product management and engineering roles. After nearly a decade at Zappos, he was considered one of Hsieh’s top MPs and oversaw the opening of a company office in Los Angeles.

The new CEO has faced a huge challenge to replace his predecessor. After Hsieh’s brutal death in November 2020, famous business leaders and friends paid tribute to the famous corporate icon. Outside of Zappos, Hsieh was known as a risk taker and visionary – a successful entrepreneur who made millions after selling Zappos to Amazon in 2010 for $ 1.2 billion and then spent $ 350 million on invest in a program to turn seedy downtown Las Vegas into a utopian cultural hub. Hsieh wrote an autobiographical business book, Providing happiness: a path to profits, passion and purpose, which set out his philosophy: that by focusing on the happiness of others, especially his employees, he could achieve happiness on his own. It was a disproportionate generosity that readers wanted to believe possible in American companies.

But in the last few years of her life, Hsieh struggled with addiction and mental health issues, including a stay in a drug rehab clinic. As Zappos and Amazon executives grew worried about his behavior, the future of Hsieh’s leadership was uncertain. In a March interview with The New York TimesDeshpande recounted a candid conversation with Hsieh in mid-2020 about his predecessor’s retirement plan. “I asked him, ‘Hey, Tony, are you sure?’ And he said, “Yeah, I want to retire” – so that was the end of the conversation, “Deshpande said.

Deshpande was appointed by Zappos’ board of directors, made up of Zappos and Amazon employees, in August 2020. From the start of Deshpande’s tenure, the question arose as to whether he could replace Hsieh , a CEO whose personality was the face of the company’s culture. Deshpande pointed out at Times that Zappos did not depend on the image of Hsieh. “Culture is not just one person or two people,” he said.

But now that he’s gone – and Amazon’s intentions for Zappos’ future unknown – it seems Deshpande’s claim hasn’t done much to solidify the future of the Hsieh-built company.

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