The chief executive at blockchain-advocating internet retailer Overstock has announced his resignation from the company, 10 days after issuing a press release which made reference to the ‘deep state’.
Patrick M. Byrne, who founded the company in 1999, said in a
statement that “while I believe that I did what was necessary for the good of
the [US], 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.”
The statement from August 12 confirmed the veracity of two
stories from investigative journalist Sara Carter. Carter had previously
noted details of a romantic relationship between Byrne and Maria Butina, a
Russian national who is currently serving time in a US jail for conspiracy to
act as an unregistered agent of a foreign state. This came amid wider
allegations around purported Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential
elections – and Byrne’s role within that.
In an interview
with CNN on the day of his resignation, Byrne claimed the FBI had directed
him to pursue such a relationship with Butina, a claim former FBI director
James Comey later dismissed as ‘ridiculous.’
statement references the deep state – inferring a conspiracy theory around
collusion within the US government – alongside calling the FBI the Men in
Black, adding this was the third time the bureau had benefited from his assistance.
“I will speak no more on the subject,” he wrote at the time. “Instead, having
lived in places lacking Rule of Law and having witnessed the consequences of
its absence, I plan on sitting back and watching the United States Department
of Justice re-establish [emphasis his] Rule of Law in our
As Overstock’s share price sunk by 38% following these
remarks, this may have been something of an optimistic take which culminated in
the precipitous end of a sorry saga. Yet in his valedictory statement yesterday,
Byrne’s vision for blockchain technologies remained undimmed, saying the
blockchain revolution “will reshape key social institutions.”
Overstock’s blockchain history – and future
Overstock fell in love with blockchain from an early age and
has remained faithful ever since. The company claimed it was the first major
retailer to accept Bitcoin after a partnership with Coinbase. As far back as
2014, Byrne was keynoting Bitcoin conferences and sharing how the company was
using blockchain ‘to prevent institutional mischief around the globe by providing
trust through technology’, as the company itself puts it.
This is by no means limited to the in-store experience.
Medici Ventures, whose major investments include Symbiont
is a wholly owned subsidiary of Overstock. The venture firm said on
Twitter following Byrne’s resignation: “Patrick’s vision for Medici
Ventures as a leader in blockchain technology is what has brought the company’s
world-changing initiatives to fruition. We will continue to build on his legacy
developing a tech stack for society and bringing blockchain-based products into
In a letter to shareholders dated July 15, Byrne wrote at
length about Medici’s portfolio, referring to it as a keiretsu, a
Japanese term for a group of companies with interlocking business
relationships. tZERO, a company which advocates blockchain for capital markets,
was heavily cited, as was fintech provider Bitt and Medici Land Governance. A
look at Medici’s companies page sees the aforementioned three head and
shoulders above the rest of the portfolio.
The latter’s vision will be familiar to regular readers of The
Block, with Marc Taverner, global ambassador at Bitfury, having
previously discussed the benefits blockchain technologies could bring to
Byrne wrote last month that these three companies are ones ‘in
which the word ‘trillions’ shows up in discussions’ – and it was a theme he
continued in his resignation letter. “In [land governance, central banking and
capital markets], our blockchain progeny are arguably the leading blockchain
disruptors in existence,” wrote Byrne.
Going forward, all sides will hope for it to be business as
usual. “Patrick Byrne has been an advocate for tZERO since our inception and we
are sorry to see him step down from his roles at Overstock and affiliated
companies,” tZERO said in a statement. “Patrick’s departure will have no impact
on tZERO’s operations as we continue to focus on our planned roadmap.”
“It has been an honour to serve you through thick and thin, threats grand and arcane, for the past 20 years,” Byrne added. “You own some disruptive assets herein… you own blockchain assets that seem to revolutionise capital markets, finance, and governance for the poor. It has been 20 years of remarkable innovation from a team that is now honed for it.”
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Credit: Blockchain News