Overstock's ex-CEO loves crypto, calls Warren Buffett his 'rabbi,' clashed with Mark Cuban, and dated a Russian spy. Here are 5 wild facts about Patrick Byrne.

AP Photo/George Frey
  • Overstock.com founder and boss Patrick Byrne resigned from the online retailer this month, stating he was “already too controversial to serve as CEO.”
  • Byrne’s colourful past includes seeking advice from his “Omaha rabbi” Warren Buffett, clashing with Mark Cuban, and describing Steve Cohen and Michael Milken as “Sith Lords” and “Al Qaeda.”
  • He has sold about $US120 million worth of Overstock shares to finance gold, silver, and cryptocurrency investments, and dated Russian spy Maria Butina.
  • Watch Overstock trade live.

Overstock.com founder and boss Patrick Byrne resigned from the online retailer last week, stating he was “already too controversial to serve as CEO.”

Byrne’s colourful past includes learning from his “Omaha rabbi” Warren Buffett, clashing with billionaire Mark Cuban, describing financiers Steve Cohen and Michael Milken as “Sith Lords” and “Al Qaeda.”

He sold about $US120 million worth of Overstock shares to finance gold, silver, and cryptocurrency investments. He also dated Russian spy Maria Butina.

More details about Byrne’s wild life are outlined below.


Patrick Byrne’s “rabbi on life” is Warren Buffett.

ReutersBerkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett.

“I’ve been lucky to have this great rabbi on life out in Omaha, this guy Buffett who I met when I was a kid,” Patrick Byrne said during a discussion of Overstock’s crypto ventures in August 2015.

Byrne met Warren Buffett, the so-called Oracle of Omaha, through his father. John “Jack” Byrne served as the chairman and chief executive of Geico from 1976 to 1985.

The elder Byrne saved the insurance giant – one of Buffett’s oldest investments – from going bankrupt, Buffett wrote in his 1980 letter to shareholders. “‘Let Jack Do It” works fine as a corporate creed for us,” the investing guru wrote in his 1982 letter.

Patrick Byrne followed his father’s example. He ran Fechheimer Brothers, a uniform manufacturer owned by Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate, for two years between 1997 and 1999.

Byrne has quoted Buffett several times on calls with analysts. Moreover, he credited Buffett with persuading him to alert reporters of his involvement in “political espionage” for the US government in the run up to the US presidential election in 2016.

He came forward “upon my Omaha rabbi reminding me of my duty as a citizen,” Byrne said in a statement.


Byrne has squabbled with Mark Cuban.

Jin S. Lee‘Shark Tank’ star and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

Byrne has squabbled with Mark Cuban, the “Shark Tank” star and owner of the Dallas Mavericks.

Byrne told a Bloomberg TV host in 2015 that the billionaire’s friends were trying to get federal authorities to investigate him.

“Some of the officials are monsters,” he said. “You’ll probably read a headline that I was stopped with drugs or a dead body.”

“Patrick Byrne is a paranoid fool,” Cuban responded on his blog. He added that he had shorted 20,000 Overstock shares and “would love to short many, many more shares” because “companies run by people I feel are paranoid fools, tend to go out of business.”

If he wanted to sink a company,Cuban said, he wouldn’t go to the authorities. “I would just try to get them to hire Patrick Byrne.”

Byrne fired back in an interview with a Business Week reporter in early 2006.

“Mark Cuban is living proof that even the billionaires club has a bell curve: Mark holds one end of it, and Bill Gates has the other,” he said. “You guess which is which.”


Byrne slammed Steve Cohen and Michael Milken as “Sith Lords” and “Al Qaeda.”

Gerald Herbert/AP‘Junk bond king’ Michael Milken (centre).

Byrne accused a “master criminal from the 1980s” of coordinating an attack on Overstock in 2005. He labelled the individual a “Sith Lord,” the title given to Darth Vader and other villains in the Star Wars franchise.

Byrne doubled down in 2006, suggesting “Al Qaeda” was a more accurate description for the people he claimed were conspiring with the US government and the media to damage his business.

In an interview with the New York Observer in 2010, Byrne revealed the targets of his insults were two well-known financiers. “It’s Steven Cohen and Mike Milken.”

Cohen is the billionaire founder of SAC Capital, who now runs Point72, another hedge fund. SAC pleaded guilty to insider trading charges in 2013.

Milken helped to develop the market for high-yield or “junk” bonds. He pleaded guilty to securities and reporting violations in 1990, and spent two years in prison.


Byrne has dumped about $US120 million worth of Overstock shares to finance gold, silver, and crypto investments.

ReutersAn illustration of bitcoin, a cryptocurrency.

Byrne recently dumped about 5 million Overstock shares for around $US90 million. He also sold at least 1.7 million shares in Overstock for more than $US30 million between September 2018 and May 2019.

He has earmarked the cash from the latest sale for gold, silver, and crypto investments. He planned to use the proceeds from the earlier sale to add to the $US12.5 million he’s already invested in blockchain projects, and finance the roughly $US50 million he’s pledged or already given to charity, Byrne said in an open letter in May.

“I simply had to supplement my nominal salary with stock sales in order to fulfil personal commitments to invest personally in blockchain projects” and meet charitable pledges, he said.

Byrne was bemused by the backlash from investors to his stock sale.

“Frankly, I had no idea that shareholders would demand explanations of why and how I might want to use my cash derived from my labour and my property to pursue my ends in life,” he said.


Byrne dated Maria Butina, a Russian spy.

Facebook/Maria ButinaRussian spy Maria Butina.

Byrne was romantically involved with Russian spy Maria Butina, her attorney confirmed earlier this month.

The Overstock boss claimed in multiple TV appearances that he served as a FBI operative in the run up to the US presidential election in 2016. The agency ordered him to maintain his relationship with Butina, who he met at a conference in 2015, he said.

Byrne claimed in a statement that he helped the “Deep State” and the “Men in Black” – the FBI – to conduct “political espionage” against Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and other presidential candidates.

“I now plan on leaving things to the esteemed Department of Justice (which I have doubtless already angered enough by going public) and disappearing for some time,” he added.

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