In July, Byrne announced that he was involved in an FBI probe into the Russia investigation and claimed to have had a relationship with Russian spy Maria Butina, who is currently serving an 18-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to conspiracy to act as a foreign agent, in connection to the 2016 presidential election.
Butina’s attorney told The New York Times that Byrne and Butina were in fact previously “romantically involved” and developed a relationship over a three year period, following their initial meeting at a Libertarian conference in 2015.
Byrne says that Butina initially attempted to court him with conversations about guns and blockchain. They kept in touch and later rendezvoused in New York, according to The Times, where they began their romantic relationship. Byrne says he became suspicious when Butina began asking about being put in contact with members of 2016 presidential campaigns, at which point he began discussions with the FBI.
In August, Byrne announced his resignation in a shareholder letter that insisted his “presence may affect and complicate all matter of business relationships.”
The letter began by stating that the founder is “already far too controversial to serve as CEO” and he does “not wish to disrupt possible strategic discussions.”
The news followed an August 12 statement from Byrne that said he assisted in federal investigations into the 2016 presidential election.
In the “comments on Deep State” statement, Byrne referred to law-enforcement officials as “the Men in Black” and said his choice to go public was encouraged by his “Omaha Rabbi,” Warren Buffett.
“Thus, 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 wrote.
The August 12 press release drew attention to his three-year relationship with Butina, but The New York Times reported that the statement, which doesn’t specifically mention their relationship, was intended by Byrne to reveal his issues with how the federal government handled its case against Butina.
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