Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne has stepped down from his position and left the company following claims that he was involved in a “political espionage” attempt following a relationship with a now-jailed Russian spy. Byrne, who has been instrumental in turning Overstock from a retailer into a cryptocurrency and blockchain-focused setup, took the decision to step down following a decline in share price following the revelations at a time when he is looking to sell Overstock’s retail operations.
— Ben Winslow (@BenWinslow) August 22, 2019
Byrne Sheds Retail Responsibilities
Byrne has been a long-term supporter of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, with Overstock having accepted Bitcoin since 2014. More recently the company has become heavily involved in the development side of blockchain, launching security-compliant crypto exchange and wallet tZero in June this year. Byrne’s departure isn’t thought likely to have any effect on the company’s crypto endeavors, with his presence as CEO of Overstock only impacting the retail aspect. Byrne, who has never been a man to hold his tongue, claimed in an Overstock press release on August 12 that he was the “notorious ‘missing Chapter 1’ of the Russian investigation” into the 2016 election interference, citing “the Men in Black” and saying that he handed a dossier of information to the Department of Justice on the matter. Noting the sliding share price, which fell 36% in 24 hours following the press release, Byrne admitted Thursday that his presence “could — and likely would — be disruptive to strategic conversations that are occurring, one of which is with my most preferred suitor in the entire industry.”
Crypto Becomes the Focus
Overstock’s share price rose again on the news of his resignation, and now divested of the retail arm of the business, Byrne will likely take some time off before turning his attention to his real passion – cryptocurrency. tZero has many plans in the works, including adding more assets to the exchange and even a dark pool matching engine, and Byrne will no doubt now want to have a more involved role in these aspects. Whether the tZero team will appreciate his forthright nature and strong opinions however is another thing altogether…