Tony Hsieh Bankrolled His Followers. In Return, They Enabled His Risky Lifestyle.

Andy Hsieh banged on the door of a shed at a waterfront home in New London, Conn., and said it was time to go. Chauffeurs were waiting to take everybody to the airport for a trip to Hawaii.

His brother Tony, the mastermind and former chief executive of Zappos Inc., had locked himself inside with a propane space heater and canisters of nitrous oxide, a mind-altering gas he habitually used. He asked Andy for five more minutes.

Soon, smoke began pouring out of the shed.

A recording of a predawn 911 call on Nov. 18 captured people yelling for the security code to open the shed’s electronic lock. A chorus of voices screamed “Tony! Tony!” over and over.

Nearly all of the people trying to break into the shed, including Andy, were on Mr. Hsieh’s payroll, part of an entourage of paid followers enlisted in his spiritual journey.

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