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Money Stuff: Overstock Loses a Spycatcher CEO

In July I came forward to a small set of journalists regarding my involvement in certain government matters. No, I didn’t, I’m lying, that’s actually the first sentence of Overstock.com Inc. Chief Executive Officer Patrick Byrne’s bananas resignation letter yesterday, I stole it from him. As soon as I read it, I thought: I will never start a piece of writing with as good a sentence as “In July I came forward to a small set of journalists regarding my involvement in certain government matters.” So I figured I’d just give it a whirl, here, falsely.[1] Honestly though if I had lived the sort of life in which at some point that became a reasonable thing to say, I’d say it constantly, to anyone who would listen. I’d get it printed on my business cards. That’s how people who watch a lot of spy movies imagine that people who are spies say “hey by the way I’m a spy.” What a great, great, great sentence.

I guess Byrne had to quit his job after writing that sentence, not only because he is going out on the highest of possible notes but also because the whole point here might be to call maximum attention to the fact that he ... apparently dated a Russian spy? Last week Byrne put out another press release with the absolutely amazing title “Overstock.com CEO Comments on Deep State, Withholds Further Comment,” insinuating a bunch of spy stuff, and let me tell you, if someone says, unprompted, in the title of a press release, that he “withholds further comment,” that’s pretty much a guarantee that more wild press releases and interviews are coming. No one goes to such lengths to congratulate himself on not commenting further unless he is bursting with a deep physiological need to comment further. The gist of what he immediately told multiple reporters is that he had a romantic relationship with Russian spy Maria Butina, that he had a “non-standard arrangement” with the FBI in which he gave them information about Butina’s activities, and that he ended up announcing the whole thing publicly on the advice of “my Omaha Rabbi,” his winking way of referring to Warren Buffett.[2]