Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne resigned Thursday following a turbulent several days for the online retailer in which Byrne experienced backlash for bizarre comments he made about the “deep state” and an admission that he had an affair with.
Byrne said in a letter to shareholders filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission that his continued leadership had become too much of a liability for the company.
“My presence may affect and complicate all manner of business relationships,” he wrote. “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.”
Boardmember Jonathan E. Johnson III is taking over as Overstock’s interim CEO.
The controversy surrounding Byrne began Aug. 12 when he issued a strange and nearly incoherent statement with the title: “Overstock.com CEO Comments on Deep State, Withholds Further Comment.”
In the statement, he admitted to assisting government investigators — whom he refers to as “Men in Black” — with probes into Russia and Hillary Clinton.
He also confirmed reports from Sara Carter, the independent investigative journalist and Fox News contributor.
Carter earlier reported that Byrne had handed over a number of documents, including emails and text messages, to the Department of Justice regarding the origins of the Russian investigation, and an FBI operation into Hillary Clinton, with which he was personally involved during the first months of 2016.
Byrne also told Carter that he had an “intimate relationship” with Maria Butina, who is currently serving a sentence after pleading guilty last year to working as an unregistered foreign agent in the U.S.
Byrne said is his Aug. 12 statement:
Starting in 2015 I (operating under the belief that I was helping legitimate law enforcement efforts) assisted in what are now known as the ‘Clinton Investigation’ and the ‘Russian Investigation’ (in fact, I am the notorious ‘missing Chapter 1’ of the Russian investigation). It was the third time in my life I helped the Men in Black: the first was when my friend Brian Williamswas murdered, and the second was when I helped the M.I.B. shake up Wall Street a decade ago. Unfortunately, this third time turned out to be less about law enforcement and more about political espionage conducted against Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (and to a lesser degree, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz).
He added that he came forward to a Congressman and a senior military officer in July 2018, and to the Department of Justice this April. He also communicated with a small set of journalists. “Ms. Carter was among them. Her two stories are accurate,” he wrote.
Byrne refers cryptically in his statement to his “Omaha Rabbi,” for giving him advice. Carter later reported that “Omaha Rabbi” refers to Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett.
On Thursday, Byrne said in his resignation statement that speaking to journalists wasn’t his “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.”
Shares of Overstock.com closed Thursday up 8.3 percent following the announcement of Byrne’s resignation.