Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne resigns following 'deep state' comments

Last week, Byrne released a statement about his role in the federal government’s investigation into the 2016 election.
Image: Patrick Byrne
Founder and CEO of Overstock.com Patrick Byrne attends Consensus 2019 at the Hilton Midtown on May 15, 2019 in New York City.Steven Ferdman / Getty Images

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By Annie Palmer, CNBC

Overstock CEO Partick Byrne has resigned from the e-commerce company after making controversial comments about his role in the “deep state.”

Shares of Overstock popped as much as 15% following the news.

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“In July I came forward to a small set of journalists regarding my involvement in certain government matters. Doing so was not my 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,” Byrne said in a statement. "...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.”

“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,” he added.

Overstock said it would appoint Jonathan Johnson, an Overstock board member and president of Overstock’s blockchain subsidiary Medici Ventures, as its interim CEO.

“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,” Allison Abraham, chair of Overstock’s board of directors, said in a statement.

Byrne, who founded Overstock 20 years ago, has been in hot water since he responded to claims of his involvement in the federal government’s investigation into the 2016 election. The announcement sent Overstock’s shares tumbling more than 30% over the following days.

In a statement, he referred to federal agents as the “Men in Black” and said he assisted in investigations related to the Clintons and Russian interference.

In an interview with The New York Times, Byrne claimed he was romantically involved with Maria Butina, the Russian operative who used her NRA activism to infiltrate American politics. She was later sentenced to 18 months in prison.