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Shares of Overstock popped as much as 17% after being halted for the news. The stock finished Thursday up 8.3% to $21.12.
"In July I came forward to a small set of journalists regarding my involvement in certain government matters. Doing so was not my first choice, but I was reminded of the damage done to our nation for three years and felt my duty as a citizen precluded me from staying silent any longer," Byrne said in a statement. "Though patriotic Americans are writing me in support, my presence may affect and complicate all manner of business relationships, from insurability to strategic discussions regarding our retail business."
"Thus, while I believe that I did what was necessary for the good of the country, for the good of the firm, I am in the sad position of having to sever ties with Overstock, both as CEO and board member, effective Thursday August 22," he added.
Byrne also touched on Overstock's business strategy in the letter addressed to shareholders, noting that the company could consider the possibility of M&A in the future.
"If the right strategic offer is made that reflects the value of that technological gem, I am confident the board will consider it," he said. "It is possible that my absence will advance the possibility."
Byrne, who founded Overstock 20 years ago, has been in hot water since he responded to claims of his involvement in the federal government's investigation into the 2016 election. The announcement sent Overstock's shares tumbling more than 30% over the following days.
In a statement titled "Overstock.com CEO Comments on Deep State, Withholds Further Comment," Byrne referred to federal agents as the "Men in Black" and said he assisted in investigations related to the Clintons and Russian interference.
In an interview with The New York Times published three days later, Byrne claimed he was romantically involved with Maria Butina, the Russian operative who used her National Rifle Association activism to infiltrate American politics. She was later sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Overstock said it would appoint Jonathan Johnson, an Overstock board member and president of Overstock's blockchain subsidiary Medici Ventures, as interim CEO.
"We respect and understand Patrick's reasons for resigning and acknowledge his momentous achievement in taking Overstock from a startup twenty years ago to one of the nation's leading online retailers and positioning it at the forefront of the blockchain revolution," board Chairwoman Allison Abraham said in a statement.
Read the full letter from Byrne below:
In July I came forward to a small set of journalists regarding my involvement in certain government matters. Doing so was not my first choice, but I was reminded of the damage done to our nation for three years and felt my duty as a citizen precluded me from staying silent any longer. So, I came forward in as carefully and well-managed fashion as I could. The news that I shared is bubbling (however haphazardly) into the public. Though patriotic Americans are writing me in support, my presence may affect and complicate all manner of business relationships, from insurability to strategic discussions regarding our retail business. Thus, while I believe that I did what was necessary for the good of the country, for the good of the firm, I am in the sad position of having to sever ties with Overstock, both as CEO and board member, effective Thursday August 22.
This possibility or even likelihood has been forefront of my mind for just over a year, since certain news became public in July 2018. On July 15 of this year, in the expectation that I might be gone before our recent (August 8) earnings call, I wrote my most detailed letter to shareholders in a long time. Here are the key points from that letter that you should know as a shareholder:
It has been an honor to serve you through thick and thin, threats grand and arcane, for the past 20 years. You own some disruptive assets herein. One of them changed how furniture gets purchased in the United States and has run up a record of GAAP profitable years that is nearly unrivaled in B2C eCommerce, on a fraction of the capital of every competitor they ever faced (a fact missed by most). And you own blockchain assets that seem poised to revolutionize capital markets, finance, and governance for the poor. It has been 20 years of remarkable innovation from a team that is now honed for it.
Coming forward publicly about my involvement in other matters was hardly my first choice. But for three years I have watched my country pull itself apart while I knew many answers, and I set my red line at seeing civil violence breaking out. My Rabbi made me see that "coming forward" meant telling the public (not just the government) the truth. I now plan on leaving things to the esteemed Department of Justice(which I have doubtless already angered enough by going public) and disappearing for some time.
I wish all shareholders a smooth and level road… And don't forget to shop Overstock.com!
Your humble servant,
Patrick M. Byrne