TL;DR: Patrick Byrne, now former CEO of online retailer Overstock.com, one of the first to accept bitcoin, announced his resignation after two decades of building the company. In a series of interviews a week prior and mere hours after, Byrne described the conditions under which he made that decision. They involve an accused young, female Russian spy, counsel from famous investing guru Warren Buffett, and encounters with what Byrne characterizes as the deep state involved in political espionage.
Overstock’s Patrick Byrne Resigns Amid Wild Tales
“Though patriotic Americans are writing me in support,” Byrne wrote to shareholders, “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.”
Byrne keeps his shares, however, which on his news have risen substantially as of this writing. He ends two decades of leadership at the company, which was among the first to accept bitcoin in the form of payment. They were also early in efforts to embrace “bockchain technology,” spinning off into investment ventures of a similar nature.
For at least a week, however, Byrne has been on something of a damage control campaign as his tangential involvement in Russian-centric alleged spying on US politicians and candidates became known. A self-described confirmed bachelor, the 56-year-old mogul explained his being approached at Freedom Fest in 2015 when then-candidate Trump made an appearance.
Maria Valeryevna Butina
A red-headed Russian woman in her mid-20s, Maria Valeryevna Butina, made contact with Byrne, who was a featured speaker at the mostly-libertarian annual gathering in Las Vegas. His account of their initial meeting is patchy, but Byrne describes her as a fan of his work and also gun rights, which she claimed to be supporting back in her home country. She urged him to speak in Russia about his Bitcoin advocacy and his classically liberal ideas, and, according to Byrne, spoke of their shared admiration for Nobel Prize-winning free market economist, Milton Friedman.
At some point, Byrne claims he became suspicious of Butina, and went to federal authorities. He suggests his prior relationship with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), during his days exposing Wall Street corruption and when he helped solve a murder of a friend years ago, left him a certain “low level clearance,” access to the “men in black.” He effectively wanted Butina vetted by the FBI and was, according to Byrne, cleared in dealing with her — she wasn’t considered worthy enough by the Obama administration Justice Department, though they acknowledged knowing all about her.
Off and on, Byrne and Butina’s relationship at some point became physical during a three-year entanglement. Byrne was later contacted by the FBI and asked to either resume his affair with Butina or to keep it going. He did out of a sense of duty, and further claims Butina divulged intimate details of her plans to become closer to US politicians, including Hillary Clinton and senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Byrne said the Obama-led FBI lost interest once Butina’s activities became more centered around Rubio and Cruz, Republicans generally.
Not a Very Good Spy
It’s Byrne’s contention Butina was allowed to wander around relative halls of US power, corporate and political, because her activities were focused more on Republicans. In what seems like a classic honeypot scenario, Butina rubbed elbows with lesser political celebrities, and, Byrne maintains, “deep state” officials were waiting to see who she could entrap in a scandal.
If Butina was a spy, she is universally acknowledged as not a very good one if the metric is keeping a low profile. She, again as Byrne tells it, was well known by US authorities and even the media. When a Russia collusion narrative against the Trump campaign began to dominate headlines, Byrne said he “put it all together,” confirming his worst suspicions about politically appointed figures high up using the likes of the FBI to go after Republicans. Apparently, he also waited until Attorney General Barr was firmly established as the nation’s top cop before formally coming forward and telling authorities about his experiences.
Summer of last year, Butina was arrested, charged with not holding a license to act as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia. By late 2018, she pled guilty and is currently serving an 18-month prison sentence. On 22 August 2019, Byrne appeared on at least two Fox News related programs to explain his stepping down from Overstock and to expand on the cryptic press release. On Fox Business Network’s Bulls & Bears, a clearly emotional Byrne held back tears as he described consulting prior with his “Rabbi” in Nebraska, code for his long relationship with famed investor Warren Buffett.
The Oracle of Omaha, as Buffett is known, counseled Byrne to come forward and speak to the Trump Justice Department. Byrne further described his decision as a Faustian bargain, pitting the future of Overstock and their blockchain-related investments at risk should either be associated with his cloak and dagger dealings. Not too long after, a refreshed Byrne gave an interview with Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum. In that longer, more personal segment, he fleshed out some of the finer details, pulled back on others, and promised to reveal more in an as-yet-unreleased letter. In both Fox News spots, he emphasized his patriotism, urging those who supported his assertions to purchase items from Overstock.com.
DISCLOSURE: The author holds cryptocurrency as part of his financial portfolio, including BCH.
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