Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne resigns amid Russian spy link, 'deep state' comments

Overstock founder and CEO Patrick Byrne resigned Thursday after 20 years at the company amid his ties to a government investigation related to the 2016 election.

“In July I came forward to a small set of journalists regarding my involvement in certain government matters,” Byrne said in a letter to shareholders. “While I believe that I did what was necessary for the good of the country, for the good of the firm, I am in the sad position of having to sever ties with Overstock, both as CEO and board member, effective Thursday, August 22.”

Chairman Jonathan Johnson has been named interim CEO.

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OSTK OVERSTOCK.COM INC. 26.60 -0.02 -0.08%

Last month, Byrne disclosed he was involved in an FBI probe into a Russia investigation and admitted to having a relationship with Maria Butina, a Russian citizen who was convicted of crimes related to the 2016 election. In an Aug.12 press release, he said it was the third time in his life that he "helped the Men in Black: the first was when my friend Brian Williams was murdered, and the second was when I helped the M.I.B. shake up Wall Street a decade ago."

In an interview with FOX Business’ Varney & Co., Byrne said the investigation is "all about political espionage" and that he thinks “we are about to see the biggest scandal in American history.”

Byrne, a cancer survivor, is considered by some to be one of Wall Street's more controversial CEOs. He recently pivoted the company into the world of cryptocurrencies, becoming one of the first U.S. retailers to accept the digital currency. He also has taken on short-sellers, investors who bet a certain stock price will decline. And he took Overstock.com public in 2002 using a Dutch Auction IPO process, at the time, being one of the first companies to do so.

Shares rose on the news.