Overstock CEO Resigns

Jamie Grill-Goodman
Editor in Chief
Jamie goodman

Overstock.com Inc. shares surged 15% in midday trading Thursday on the heels of news that CEO Patrick Byrne said he was severing ties with the company, according to MarketWatch.

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,” Byrne wrote 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.”

The resignation of the CEO who launched Overstock in 1999 comes after Overstock put out a press release in which Byrne said he had assisted the U.S. Department of Justice in the Russian investigation into the 2016 elections and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s operation regarding Hilary Clinton. He claimed he was the notorious “missing Chapter 1” of the Russian investigation. He noted it was “the third time in my life I helped the Men in Black” but that “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 also said he was romantically involved with Maria Butina who is now serving 18 months in prison after being accused by federal prosecutors of trying to infiltrate powerful political circles in the United States at the direction of the Russian government. She ultimately pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.

Overstock shares had plunged 36% last week, according to MarketWatch, after releasing the statement, the biggest two-day selloff since the company went public in May 2002. 

 A New CEO

In the wake of Byrne’s resignation, Jonathan E. Johnson III has been appointed Overstock’s interim chief executive officer and Dr. Kamelia Aryafar as member of the board of directors. Johnson has been with the company for nearly 17 years and serves on the board and as the president of Medici Ventures, the company’s wholly owned subsidiary focusing on blockchain innovation. Aryafar has been with the company since 2017 and serves as the chief algorithms officer.

“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,” said Allison Abraham, the chair of Overstock.com, Inc. “We have full confidence in both Jonathan’s ability to lead the company, and Kamelia’s expertise and insights to help the board successfully lead Overstock into the coming months and years.”

“In his twenty years as Overstock’s leader, Patrick’s vision for Overstock as an innovation leader has come to fruition. It will be my mission as I take the helm to continue and build on Overstock’s achievements and success,” said Johnson. “I am confident Overstock’s future – both in retail and blockchain – is bright.”

“Dr. Byrne has successfully created and molded Overstock over the years by pioneering the marriage of tried-and-proven competitive business principles with cutting edge data analytics and technology; a true visionary,” said Aryafar. “I am excited to join the board and I look forward to continuing the company’s trajectory and contributing to its future success.”

“Jonathan’s diverse and extensive experience here has prepared him well to successfully oversee both our retail and blockchain businesses,” said Byrne. “Kamelia is a brilliant machine learning scientist and e-commerce veteran who has already made great contributions to our science, engineering, and analytics by advancing data-driven technology.”

Johnson will continue to serve on the boards of Overstock, Medici Ventures, and tZERO; he will also continue in his role as president of Medici Ventures.

In addition to now serving as a member of the Board, Aryafar is being promoted to EVP of Overstock’s retail business, overseeing the continued implementation of a data-driven and machine learning strategy across the customer, marketing and sourcing departments to provide the best personalized customer experience. Aryafar will continue to serve in her role as chief algorithms officer of Overstock’s retail business. Johnson’s and Aryafar’s new responsibilities commence immediately.

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