Overstock CEO backpedals firm date to sell retail arm

Overstock founder and CEO Patrick Byrne backpedaled on Friday an exact timeline of when he plans to sell the retail arm of his e-commerce company to focus solely on his other blockchain startups.

On Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Byrne is so gung-ho about blockchain’s technology that he plans to complete this sell of his e-commerce business by as early as February 2019. That report boosted the company’s shares more than 20 percent on Friday.

But in a statement to FOX Business, Byrne suggested the sale may not take place that soon.

“While it is possible that I could ‘wrap up a deal by February,’ I believe that the following is a more precise and accurate statement of my beliefs and intentions,” he said. “I believe that the right thing to do for shareholders is to separate the value of the retail and blockchain companies (particularly tZERO), and I believe I can do that through a tax free spin off of tZERO in 13 months (which is to say, December, 2019) at the outside.” tZERO is a blockchain subsidiary of Overstock.

Byrne said the values could be separated by selling the retail side of the firm, but that his hope is that could be completed within a few months. There is also the option to separate the businesses 13 months out through a tax-free spin off, he said.

“That is the outside bracket on when something strategic would be done, in my eyes,” he said.

Byrne declined to name potential suitors, but said he is confident that next year there will be strategic separation of the retail and blockchain components of the firm, which “could happen as early as February.”

Byrne, who founded Overstock in 1999 to sell discounted goods like furniture and jewelry over the internet, has been an adamant believer of blockchain for years.

He told the Journal that he has been planning to sell his e-commerce business since 2017 to fully devote himself to some of his blockchain startups that he has been developing through his subsidiary called Medici Ventures.

Byrne said he has invested more than $175 million into Medici and despite the company losing more than $22 million in 2017, and more than $39 million in 2018, he believes the company and its technology, including its trading system tZero, is the future.   "I don't care whether tZERO is losing $2 million a month," Byrne told the Journal. "We think we've got cold fusion on the blockchain side.”