Patrick M. Byrne

Patrick M. Byrne (born 1962, Fort Wayne, Indiana, United States) is the president, CEO and chairman of the board of directors of Internet retailer Byrne took control of the company then called D2: Discounts Direct, and changed the name to Overstock in 1999. He had previously served shorter terms leading two smaller companies, including one owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway. [ [ Riding on a Raft: Patrick Byrne and] , by Duan, Jason, Bachelor, John A III. Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship, Jan 2006]

In 2002 Byrne brought public. The company has since increased its revenue to around $800 million a year, although it has yet to turn an annual profit. Byrne was named to "BusinessWeek"’s list of the 25 most influential people in e-Business in 2002 [ [ The 25: Staying Power?] , September 30, 2002, "BusinessWeek"] and Ernst & Young awarded Byrne the "2002 Milestone Award Winner Utah Region." [ [ Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Hall of Fame] [ [ Riding on a Raft: Patrick Byrne and] , by Duan, Jason, Bachelor, John A III. Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship, Jan 2006]

Byrne has recently become known for his campaign against naked short selling, a practice which he says has been used in violation of securities law to hurt the price of his and other companies' stock. [" [ A Boxer and Drug Baron's Unlikely Alliance] ," The Globe and Mail, March 2, 2006 ] Under his direction, has filed two lawsuits alleging improper acts by Wall Street firms, a hedge fund, and an independent research firm. [ [ Inc. Annual report on Form 10-K, Legal Proceedings, 2007] ]


Patrick Byrne is the son of John J. Byrne, former chairman of Berkshire Hathaway's GEICO insurance subsidiary and White Mountains Insurance Group. [ "Patrick Byrne: Off-Price Power," Business Week, Oct. 1, 2002] ] He holds a certificate from Beijing Normal University, has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chinese studies from Dartmouth College, a Master's degree from Cambridge University as a Marshall Scholar, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Stanford University. [ [ Patrick Byrne biography,] ]

Byrne was a teaching fellow at Stanford University from 1989 to 1991 and was manager of Blackhawk Investment Co. and Elissar, Inc. He served as Chairman, President and CEO of Centricut, LLC, a manufacturer of industrial torches, then held the same three positions at Fechheimer Brothers, Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway company manufacturing police, firefighter, and military uniforms. [ [ Interview with Byrne on NPR] July 4, 2003]

Byrne has a black belt in tae kwon do, and once pursued a career in professional boxing. He is a cancer survivor, and has ridden a bicycle across the country to raise awareness and money for cancer research at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Byrne has also focused on promoting education, particularly in support of implementing school vouchers and other educational reforms. [ [ Riding on a Raft: Patrick Byrne and] , by Duan, Jason, Bachelor, John A III. Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship, Jan 2006] Byrne was the largest donor to political causes in Utah in the period 2003-2006, while his father was the third-largest. [ [,1249,635209449,00.html Handful give lots of $$] , by Lee Davidson and Bob Bernick Jr., May 22, 2006, Deseret Morning News]

In 1999 Byrne was approached by the founder of D2-Discounts Direct, asking for capital. The company had generated slightly more than $500,000 in revenue the previous year by liquidating excess inventory online. Byrne found the idea of online closeouts intriguing, and invested $7 million for a 60 percent stake in the company in the spring of 1999. In September the same year he took over as CEO, and the following month the company was renamed [ [, Inc.] by Jeffrey Covell, in International Directory of Company Histories, Volume 75 (2004) ] [ [ The Renaissance Man of E-Commerce Patrick Byrne has done more in his 37 years than most do in a lifetime. Will that make his company,, a success?] by Nicholas Stein, February 7, 2000, ""]


During a vacation in Southeast Asia Byrne found that many village artisans were held back by the lack of retail channels, as their production was fragmented and the quantities produced were small. He further realised that the Overstock model was perfectly suited for their needs. In 2001 he therefore set up the Worldstock division of Overstock. [ [, Press Release] , 2002] [ [ The Worldstock Story] ] Worldstock searches through villages all over the world for people capable of producing quality products, by 2006 there were approximately 6,000 producers contributing. On average, about 70 percent of the retail price on all Worldstock items sold goes directly to the artist. [ [ Byrne’s War’s Patrick Byrne is On a Self-imposed Mission to Save Main Street from Wall Street] , by Colin Kelly Jr., 4.18.2006] [ [ Riding on a Raft: Patrick Byrne and] , by Duan, Jason, Bachelor, John A III. Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship, Jan 2006] [ [ Overstocking in Afghanistan] , by Johanna Glasner, 06.25.04, Wired]

"Dutch Auction" IPO

Byrne initiated a Dutch auction IPO of in 2002. The company was one of the first to go public under a system advanced by WR Hambrecht + Co to retain a greater share of capital within the company rather than going to the investment bank underwriters used in conventional public offerings. Byrne has said that competing banks reacted against this, attempting to obstruct the success of the offering through negative reports and by shorting the company's stock. [ [ “IPO Dutch Auctions Vs. Traditional Allocation,” Forbes, May 10, 2004] ] When Google later in 2004 went public via a Dutch auction IPO, Byrne commented that Wall Street firms similarly pushed negative stories, but did not keep it from going forward successfully. [ [ Google Not the First to Go Dutch,” by Jerry Knight, The Washington Post, Aug. 23, 2004 ] ] Four years after the OpenIPO, one official of Hambrecht, its now former co-CEO Clay Corbus was added to Overstock's board of directors. [ [ “ elects Clay Corbus, Hambrecht`s co-CEO, to its board,” Internet Retailer, March 12, 2007] ]

Campaign against naked shorting

In 2005, Byrne contended that numerous hedge funds, analysts and journalists were colluding in an attempt to profit through illegal naked short selling aimed at various companies. Byrne has argued that the practice, which involves selling shares of a stock short without arranging to borrow the shares, has been used in concerted efforts to drive down the share price of certain companies much further than is possible with ordinary short selling, despite SEC regulations that generally prohibit the practice. Byrne said this has caused the failure of a number of small or financially troubled companies, which then becomes highly profitable for the naked short sellers. [ "The Phantom Menace," by Bethany McLean, Fortune Magazine, Nov. 15, 2005] ] In a letter to the Wall Street Journal in April 2006, Byrne contended that "blackguards have practiced 'failure to deliver'" of securities, were "destroying businesses and (probably) destabilizing our capital markets." [ [ Patrick Byrne letter to Wall Street Journal, April 21, 2006] ] [ [ CNET interview with Byrne] March 6, 2006] Since 2005, Overstock has filed two lawsuits relating to the matters under Byrne's direction. [ [ Overstock CEO reflects on Cramer debacle] March 28, 2007]

In the first lawsuit, filed 2005, sued hedge fund Rocker Partners and the equities research firm, Gradient Analytics (formerly Camelback Research Alliance), saying they illegally colluded in short-selling the company while paying for negative reports to drive down share prices. [ [ Overstock.Com versus Gradient Analytics et al.] ] The defendant (i.e. Gradient Analytics et al.) moved to have the case dismissed, however the California court ruled in August 2006 that the suit should be allowed to proceed. [ [ Ruling, Superior Court; Overstock.Com versus Gradient Analytics et al.] ] Gradient filed a counter-complaint against Byrne for libel. ["US Research firm countersues retailer," ] filed a second lawsuit in 2007 against a number of large investment banks relating directly to alleged illegal naked short selling. [ [,1249,660192260,00.html Overstock sues brokers] Feb. 3, 2007] Both cases remain in litigation. [ [ Page expired - MSN Money ] ]

Byrne's campaign against naked short selling has attracted controversy, including criticism from a number of journalists. In a column in the "New York Times" in February 2006, journalist Joseph Nocera described Byrne's actions as a "campaign of menace" and as an attempt to silence's critics. [ [ “Overstock's Campaign Of Menace” by Joe Nocera, "The New York Times", Feb. 25, 2006] ] [ [ Revisiting and Utah] , by Joe Nocera, "The New York Times", Mar. 10, 2007] MarketWatch's Herb Greenberg has called Byrne the runner-up for Worst CEO of the Year two years running. [ [ Worst CEO of 2006 goes to Ilia Lekach of Parlux: Commentary: Overstock's Byrne is runner up for the second straight year] Dec 6, 2006] One of Byrne's claims, that naked shorting can cause heavy dilution of a company's stock by creating sales untied to any specific shares, has been criticized by "Wall Street Journal" columnist Holman W. Jenkins. Byrne has cited as an example of a company whose shares have been more than 100% sold short in one quarter, but Jenkins suggests that this merely reflects's heavy trading volume and relatively small public float. Jenkins further argues that brokers are inherently cautious in using the practice, due to the high risk of trading shares that are not guaranteed to be available. [ [ "Do Nudists Run Wall Street," "The Wall Street Journal", April 12, 2006] ] Byrne has denied that his campaign is primarily about, but others contend that it is an attempt to divert attention from's financial performance, noting that the company has not turned a profit in several years. [ [ Letter] , "The Wall Street Journal", April 21, 2006] However, Byrne has also received favorable coverage, and was featured in a Bloomberg Television show on Naked Short Selling, "Phantom Shares" [cite web|url= |title=Phantom Shares |author=Bloomberg Television |date=March 12, 2007] , in March 2007.

In March 2006, John (Jack) Byrne, chairman of and father of Patrick Byrne, said that he was thinking of stepping down in disagreement over the campaign against naked shorting. [ [ “ chairman mulls stepping down,” the Associated Press, March 3, 2006] ] In April 2006, John Byrne stepped down to become vice-chairman, and in July of that year he resigned from Overstock's board of directors. In August 2008, Jack Byrne said that after "much initial skepticism" he believed his son was "right all along" about the battle and lawsuits with short-sellers and analysts. [ [ Jack Byrne legendary in insurance circles] , 08/04/2008, "The Salt Lake Tribune"]

Byrne was instrumental in Utah's passage of a law aimed at curbing naked short selling. The legislation was repealed in February 2007, after state representatives were advised that it probably would not withstand judicial scrutiny due to federal preemption. [cite news| title=House acts to put end to 'naked short selling' bill | author=Brice Wallace |url=,1249,660199597,00.html| publisher="Deseret Morning News" |date=2007-03-01] Byrne criticized the repeal,cite news|title=Debate on repealing a statute on short selling prompts a verbal clash| author=Bob Mims| publisher="Salt Lake Tribune" (via lexisnexis)| date=2007-02-27] but Senate Majority Leader Curtis Bramble said that legal advisers believed that the state would lose any litigation over the law.

The campaign has also involved the Securities and Exchange Commission to varying extents. An SEC investigation of Gradient was initiated but then dropped in February 2007. [ [ SEC kills probe of Gradient] , "New York Post", February 14, 2007] [ [ Appeals court sides with] , "New York Post", May 31, 2007] In July 2007, two American Stock Exchange options market makers were fined and suspended for using Regulation SHO exemptions to "impermissibly engage in naked short selling" in trades involving options and stocks for their own account. Overstock shares were believed to be among the stocks traded. The market makers settled without admitting or denying the allegations. None of the defendants sued by Overstock were named in the decision, but the Dow Jones News Service said that the decision was likely to be used by Byrne in pursuing his case. [ [ Amex Disciplinary Decisions, SBA Trading] ] [ [ American Stock Exchange announcement of disciplinary action, July 31, 2007] ] [cite |title=AMEX Nabs 2 for Reg SHO abuse; 1 Traded Overstock |author=Carol Remond |publisher=Dow Jones Newswire |date=August 1, 2007]

After the crisis in the North American markets in 2008, Byrne has received mainly positive press. A Salt Lake Tribune article reported that "These days, when people talk of Byrne, the word "vindication" comes up a lot." [ [ Naked shorting's early critic starts to see some vindication] , August 3, 2008, "The Salt Lake Tribune"]

Awards and Media attention

Since Byrne launched in 1999, he and his company have garnered attention from numerous national media outlets. Among them are the Wall Street Journal, ABC News with Peter Jennings, "Fortune", CBS Marketwatch, and "BusinessWeek", among others. He has also appeared on Bloomberg TV, CNBC, and Fox News shows such as Your World with Neil Cavuto. In 2002, Byrne was named to "BusinessWeek"’s list of the 25 most influential people in e-Business in 2002: the magazine cited survival strength and vision as qualities that qualified Byrne for the list. [ [ The 25: Staying Power?] , September 30, 2002, "BusinessWeek"] and Ernst & Young awarded Byrne the "2002 Milestone Award Winner Utah Region." [ [ Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Hall of Fame] [ [ Riding on a Raft: Patrick Byrne and] , by Duan, Jason, Bachelor, John A III. Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship, Jan 2006] Also in 2003 Overstock came no.1 in MountainWest Capital Network (MWCN) Utah100 award for the fastest growing company in Utah. Fastest Growing category are based on percentage revenue increases in the five preceding years. [ [ MountainWest Capital Network] ] Byrne also won the first-ever [ Utah Best of State Awards] for Community Development in 2003. [ [ Best of State premiere is a winner] , by Jake Parkinson, Jun 23, 2003, Deseret News (Salt Lake City),]

Education lobbying

Byrne was head of [ First Class Education] , an education lobbying organization. Byrne was appalled by bloated administrative and bureaucratic expenses in the educational system, so the organization's primary goal is known as "65 cent solution," which would require 65% of all education spending to be spent on teachers' salaries and other classroom costs. [ [,9171,1074137,00.html Teaching Schools How to Spend] By MATTHEW COOPER Jun. 20, 2005, "Time magazine"]

Byrne also serves as co-chair (with Rose Friedman) for "The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice". The non-profit organization was founded by Milton and Rose Friedman and promotes school vouchers and other forms of school choice. [ [ Friedman Foundation Board of Directors] ]

Byrne and his family contributed most of the funds in support of House Bill 148 in Utah, a bill that would allow the state to provide funding vouchers for students who decide to leave public schools for private schools. [ [ The Salt Lake Tribune] November 1, 2007 ] In January 2008, it was reported that Byrne and his parents contributed about $4 million to the pro-voucher campaign, or three-quarters of its $5.4 million funding. Opponents of vouchers spent $4 million. [ [ "Voucher battle costs both sides total of $9.3M," "Salt Lake Tribune", Jan. 8, 2008] ,] When that bill was soundly defeated in a statewide referendum (62% opposing vs. 38% favoring) [ [ Voters dislike vouchers ] ] , the "Salt Lake Tribune" reported that Byrne "called the referendum a 'statewide IQ test' that Utahns failed." He said, "They don't care enough about their kids. They care an awful lot about this system, this bureaucracy, but they don't care enough about their kids to think outside the box." [ [ Vouchers go down in crushing defeat] , "The Salt Lake Tribune", November 7, 2007]

Byrne criticized Utah governor Jon Huntsman for not sufficiently supporting the voucher campaign. According to Byrne, Huntsman had before he was elected stated that he was "going to be the voucher governor," and Byrne had donated $75,000 to Huntsman's campaign for governor in 2004. However, to Byrne´s disappointment, the moment Huntsman was elected he went missing from the debate, and Byrne told the Associated Press that he would now bankroll anyone who could defeat Huntsman at the polls, "even a communist". [ [ "Overstock chief blasts Huntsman over vouchers," the Associated Press, Nov. 8, 2007] ]

During the school voucher debate, Byrne said of high school dropouts, "Right now, 40 percent of Utah minorities are not graduating from high school. You may as well burn those kids. That's the end of their life. That's the end of their ability to achieve in this society if they do not get a high school education. You might as, just throw the kids away." He was criticized for the comment by the Utah NAACP, but rejected their demand for an apology. [ [,2933,305600,00.html Founder Refuses to Apologize for Comments About Minority Dropouts] , Fox News, Oct. 27, 2007]


*Marquis Who's Who Online

ee also


External links

* [ Deep Capture] a financial blog by Patrick Byrne
* [ website]
* [ Interview with Byrne on NPR] July 4, 2003
* [ CNET interview with Byrne] March 6, 2006
* [ "CEO with a Cause" interview on NBC Universal's] June 27 2007
* [ "A day in the life of Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne", interview on The Register website, Mar. 10, 2008]

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