SALT LAKE CITY — The chairman of Internet retailer Overstock.com told a newspaper that he may step down in a disagreement with his son's "jihad" against market analysts and financial writers.
Chairman John "Jack" Byrne called Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne's fight distracting. The younger Byrne is waging a public-relations and legal battle with short-sellers and analysts he contends are conspiring to depress the company's stock price.
"I can't tell whether this jihad adds to the value of the stock or subtracts from it, but what it does is take from Patrick's time," the senior Byrne said in a Wall Street Journal story on Thursday. He said his "headstrong" son has ignored his pleas to drop the fight.
John Byrne said he'd seriously consider stepping down as chairman after stockholders meet next month, but would remain on the board as a director. He plans to keep an investment that together with his wife's amounts to about 9 percent of Overstock's equity.
Patrick Byrne refused to take a call from The Associated Press Thursday, and his father, who has an unlisted phone number in Park City, Utah, couldn't be reached for comment.
"Patrick and I have had some wonderful times together on Overstock, but we've also had some stormy times. I'd rather keep my relationship with my son than be the chairman of the board," the 74-year-old Byrne told the newspaper.
The senior Byrne took over as chairman last October when his son asked him for help improving the company's management. Overstock hasn't posted an annual profit since it went public in 2002.
The younger Byrne, 43, filed a lawsuit last August against Rocker Partners, a New Jersey hedge fund that specializes in short-selling, and Gradient Analytics, an independent research firm based in Scottsdale, Ariz. The lawsuit alleged that Rocker and Gradient colluded to publish negative research on Overstock.com. They have denied any wrongdoing.
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