Overstock CEO steps down; fate of tZero unknown

Patrick Byrne, CEO of eCommerce retail platform Overstock, became so enamored with blockchain and cryptocurrencies that he was willing to give up retail and concentrate solely on the digital solutions. He created tZero for that purpose and even allowed crypto payments to be added to the Overstock platform. All of that may change now, though, as Byrne has resigned from the company over alleged ties to Russian operatives and an investigation into the 2016 presidential election.

Byrne announced last month that he was involved in an FBI-led investigation into the elections, as well as a relationship he had with a reported undercover Russian operative, Maria Butina. He asserts that his involvement had been requested by the Department of Justice, and that he didn’t do anything wrong. In announcing his resignation from Overstock yesterday, he told shareholders via a letter, “In July I came forward to a small set of journalists regarding my involvement in certain government matters. 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.”

Byrne still believes that “the blockchain revolution will reshape key social institutions.” Despite his affirmation, there’s a good chance that the new interim CEO for Overstock, Jonathan Johnson, may not be as optimistic. tZero had pre-tax losses of $12.6 million in the last quarter of 2018 and its future is going to be questioned by the Overstock board.

Byrne was forced to relinquish his spot on that board due to his resignation, as well. Kamelia Aryafar, the company’s “Chief Algorithms Officer,” will take the outgoing CEO’s spot on the board, according to an Overstock press release (in pdf). She is also being promoted to Executive Vice President of Overstock Retail.

The company’s announcement indicates that Johnson will continue to serve as president of Medici Ventures, as well as a member of the board of Overstock, Medici Ventures and tZero, so the company’s blockchain efforts will remain intact, at least for now. Medici is the company subsidiary that launched tZero in 2016.

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