Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne has resigned after comments he made about the “deep state” and Russian meddling, including claims that he had a romantic relationship with Maria Butina, the Russian woman who pleaded guilty to being an unauthorized foreign agent.
“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,” he said in a letter to shareholders. “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.”
In his letter, Byrne also praised Overstock’s investment in blockchain technology, which he says “will reshape key social institutions,” as well as its retail operations. He also shared positive words for Jonathan Johnson, a longtime employee who was announced as the company’s interim CEO.
“You could not have a more stable, prudent leader,” he wrote. “The reason we have been such good partners is that Jonathan is the exact opposite of me in many respects. No doubt that may be welcome in some quarters.”
Although Byrne wrote that he plans to leave things to the Department of Justice and that he will “disappear” for some time, he seemed to hint that he may be the subject of further revelations.
“On any normal day, my presence is not conducive to strategic discussions regarding our retail business,” he wrote. “I believe that going forward my presence will definitely not be conducive to such strategic discussions. And if the hors d’oeuvre that was served recently caused the market such indigestion, it is not going to be in shareholder interest for me to be around if and when any main course is served.”
Shareholders appeared to welcome Byrne’s departure, as stock prices rose about 9% by the afternoon following his announcement, CNBC reports.
Byrne founded Overstock in 1999 and has long been considered outspoken for the CEO of a publicly traded company, including for his comments deriding short sellers who target company stock, his libertarian-leaning politics, and his unabashed support of blockchain technology, which he has called potentially revolutionary.