Overstock Chief Executive Patrick Byrne blasted investors who questioned his recent stock sale, calling their criticism “gauche” and vowing never to defend his selling again.
The fiery letter to shareholders follows a 21 percent drop in the company’s stock on Wednesday and Thursday after Overstock revealed in a regulatory filing that the CEO had sold 500,000 shares totaling $6.5 million between Monday and Tuesday.
Byrne revealed in the Friday letter that he has since sold 400,000 more shares — representing sales this week of about 17 percent of his stake in the online retailer.
Byrne said he needed the money to “supplement [his] nominal salary” of $100,000 a year; to “meet charitable pledges” and to invest in Overstock blockchain projects such as Medici Land Governance.
“While I was taught it is gauche to make a big deal of one’s giving … such explanation has been called for by the numerous far-more-gauche letters I have been receiving,” he wrote. “I do not intend to ever give such an explanation again,” he added about the sales, which were made days after the company reported earnings on May 9 and popped 11.3 percent.
“I have not seen anything quite like this. He seems to be saying: ‘Peasants, how dare you doubt me?’” John Coffee, a Columbia Law School professor, told The Post in an e-mail.
The CEO, who famously battled short sellers — even comparing one to a “Sith Lord” — claimed in the nearly 750-word missive that he told investors last year he would be selling stock but was unable to facilitate the sales because he often has inside information.
Only this week, and once last fall — when regulatory filings showed he sold nearly 775,000 shares — did he feel he had the appropriate window for a sale.
Coffee added that Byrne could have created an automated stock selling plan years ago.
“The level of arrogance in his explanation is unique,” Coffee said.
Overstock’s shares have plunged nearly 90 percent after reaching a peak of $86.90 in January 2018 amid cryptocurrency mania.
The company, which was founded in 1997 as an online retailer of returned and overstocked merchandise, began accepting bitcoin as a payment in 2014.
Byrne has since intensified his focus on cryptocurrencies and has claimed since 2017 that he plans to sell the e-commerce company. A sale, which was initially expected in early 2018, has not been completed, and Byrne has stopped giving timelines after others lapsed.
The double whammy of no sale and bitcoin’s volatile trading has weighed on Overstock’s share price, which closed Friday at $10.61 after trading up 50 cents, or 4.9 percent, for the day.
“I hate to sell at this share price while the business continues to rebound quickly,” Byrne wrote.
“Frankly, I had no idea that shareholders would demand explanations of why and how I might want to use my cash derived from my labor and my property to pursue my ends in life,” Byrne wrote, emphasizing “my” in italics at each turn.