True or False, No More Tony Hsieh and the Downtown Project?

False. At least right now!

There’s big buzz in Vegas as sources dig deeper into the changes afoot with the Downtown Project. Multiple headlines state Tony Hsieh has stepped down from the Downtown Project. ???  In summary, Tony Hsieh states he never operated as CEO of the Downtown Project and that he will remain active as an investor and advisor. So why the reports about him stepping down? According to re/code, Tony Hsieh is stepping down as leader of the Downtown Project, see Tony Hsieh Steps Down from Lead Role. That said, that doesn’t really clarify anything. 

A negative spotlight is focused over the Downtown Project highlighting issues with the venture bleeding money, poor planning, and a loss of focus on Return on Community (ROC) – which was part of the original mission statement for the Downtown Project but removed recently, replaced by Return on Collision. Add poor hiring decisions by Tony Hsieh and that he showed poor judgement in people, and it looks like the entire project is going down the downtown toilet. News headlines state massive layoff, there is a staff of 300 currently remaining after 30 were laid off earlier this week. As stated by Tony Hsieh’s spokesperson Kim Schaefer, the Downtown Project is “streamlining operations”.

According to a Las Vegas Weekly article:

… a source said that Hsieh has washed his hands of Downtown Project recently and has upper management handling the layoffs. Another source told theWeekly that some “weird things” have been happening in the last week, creating a sense that something was up, but “I don’t think anybody saw this coming a week ago.”

One disillusioned participant of the Downtown Project wrote an open letter to Tony Hsieh:

You claimed that the city of the future would require equal attention on ROC (Return on Community), and I intuitively knew you were right. Though I have come to understand the formidable challenges inherent in transforming a city, the story you crafted was not only visionary, but attainable.

So what happened?

Whatever’s happened, there will be no shortage of updates on the troubles within the Downtown Project. A bubble has burst, and hopefully the entire project will not self destruct. This was a project determined to improve Vegas in a way that didn’t focus on the tacky. It inspired many to envision a new area in Vegas that could compete with urban leaders, the new Silicon Valley meets South by Southwest was part of Tony Hsieh’s vision. $350 million was invested into this revitalization project, has the project hit a Silicon Valley impasse, too much money and attention invested into entrepreneurs too young to know better? Is it too late to show a Return on Community?

So now what?

Recent articles include:
EntrepeneurZappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s ‘Great American Techtopia’ Is in Trouble
KNPR, Layoffs at Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project
TechCrunch, Tony Hsieh Steps Down From Vegas Downtown Project
ValleywagReport: Zappos CEO’s Las Vegas Dreamland Is Imploding


STATEMENT

From Tony Hsieh
9/30/14 Downtown Project Q&A

tl;dr – there are a lot of misleading headlines flying around out there…

Headline 1: “30% Layoffs at Downtown Project, Downtown Project is failing, Downtown Vegas is too.”
Response 1: “We eliminated 30 positions from our corporate support staff. We directly employ more than 300 people, and through our investments there are over800 people working in our porfolio of companies in downtown Vegas. Later this week we are adding about 30 positions when we open up The Market and we plan to continue to grow our total job count.”

Headline 2: “Tony Hsieh steps down as CEO/leader of Downtown Project”
Response 2: “I am the CEO of Zappos.com but I’ve never referred to myself as the CEO of Downtown Project, and I’ve never considered myself as being in “day-to-day management” of Downtown Project. My role continues to be as an investor, advisor, and equivalent of a board member that sets high-level general direction and strategy but is not involved in day-to-day management of people or projects. My level of involvement at Downtown Project is the same as it was 6 months ago.” FYI, here is my DTP priority list: https://www.evernote.com/l/ABCVukKSorFAMoEEBnPy-i-K5yTLm75ixh