Former Overstock CEO sells his stock, invests in gold, cryptocurrency

(Paul Fraughton | Tribune file photo) Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne in 2006.

The founder and former CEO of Utah-based Overstock.com has sold his remaining $90 million stake in the company, saying he intended to invest the proceeds in gold and other holdings to protect his fortune from the “Deep State.”

Patrick Byrne, 56, resigned abruptly from the online discount retailer Aug. 21 after disclosing he’d had an affair with alleged Russian agent Maria Butina while acting as a confidential informant for the FBI. He said at the time he sought to shield the firm after making allegations of being caught up in a conspiracy within the U.S. government involving political espionage against Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton and others.

A regulatory filing Wednesday indicates Byrne has sold more than 4.7 million shares in the firm, headquartered in Midvale. Shares in Overstock have traded at relatively low prices of between $16.32 and $21.84 a share over the past three days, as Byrne’s shares were sold off. Shares had traded at a five-year high of $84.35 in January 2018.

In a blog post on his website DeepCapture.com, Byrne sought to reassure former Overstock colleagues the sale was driven by concerns of a market crash and “acts of retaliation” over his claims from elements within the government — not a lack of faith in Overstock’s future.

“I have been following the US economy and the deteriorating world situation, and I am growing worried, as I am sure you have as well,” Byrne wrote to his “erstwhile teammates” at the company’s Peace Coliseum in Midvale.

In addition to accumulating cash as “ammunition” against his enemies, Bryne said in his post he would infuse sale proceeds into counter-cyclical investments such as gold, silver and two types of cryptocurrency, intended as a hedge in case of an economic downturn.

And if markets tank and Overstock hits hard times, he wrote to former colleagues, Byrne could provide a capital injection by buying back into the company, once legal limits on such a move had expired.

“You will have access to capital if needed,” Byrne wrote. “In fact, you will have not just access to capital, you will have access to the friendliest capital imaginable: my own.”

The regulatory notice of Byrne’s sale emerged the same day Overstock delayed plans to issue shareholders a “digital dividend,” in a move the company said was meant to allay concerns over its liquidity and to sort out challenges over how new shares in the company would be traded.

In his Aug. 21 resignation letter to shareholders, Byrne said he was leaving to avoid disrupting key business talks, in light of controversy generated by his claims in July of involvement with Butina and federal probes into Russian interference in U.S. elections.

On Wednesday, he added to that, saying the reason was “the impossibility of our getting corporate insurance with me still at the helm” and that his stock sale would further distance him from the firm he helped create 20 years ago.

Bryne said he also hoped the sale would protect Overstock from mounting attacks surrounding his allegations about the government.

“If I had stayed at Overstock or even remained a large owner of OSTK, they would try to break Overstock as a way of crippling me,” he explained. “With me no longer an executive, a board member, or even a shareholder, it becomes pointless for them to try to get at me that way.”

“You think me controversial now,” he wrote on DeepCapture.com, “but you ain’t seen nothing yet. I know enough to fry the Deep State to ashes.”