Why do we like to write about Overstock.com (NASD: OSTK) and their CEO Patrick Byrne so much? Because it may be the single-most entertaining story in the markets and in business today. It's not gratuitous because Byrne, like Bill Clinton to S'N'L, generously provides an endless stream of cannon-fodder. The latest from Mr. Byrne is a letter he wrote to investment website The Motley Fool about TheStreet.com. Here it is, taken from the website of hedge fund manager Jeff Mathews:
For those of you who don't know, Herb Greenberg is a crooked reporter who formerly worked at thestreet.com, then moved to MarketWatch, where he makes a living doing hatchet jobs on whatever companies David Rocker is short.
Sometimes for variety he goes on Mad Money with Jim Cramer (founder of thestreet.com), and together they do hatchet jobs on companies David Rocker is short. (Did I mention that Rocker has been the #1 or #2 owner in thestreet.com, owning as much as 15% of thestreet.com through various on-shore and off-shore entities, such as Helmsman and Compass Holdings ...?)
Cramer and Greenberg's hatchet jobs take an unusual form. They resemble Thomas Friedman's write-ups on the Arab-Israeli conflict: "Let's see, Arabs, Israel, Arabs... Israel, Arabs........ Israel...... okay, I gotta call this one for the Israeli's." In op-ed after op-ed.
Similarly, when Greenberg adn [sic] Cramer attack me together, it generally takes the form of Cramer saying, "Byrne might be a good guy," Greenberg saying something like , "No no, he's a bad guy," "Are you sure? 'Cause I thought he might be a good guy..." "Oh no, he's definitely a bad guy." "Well...OK OK, he's a bad guy."
Oh, did I mention that Cramer founded thestreet.com, Greenberg cut his teeth there, and Rocker has been the most significant owner outside of Cramer himself?
Anyway.... Herb came to his end of year piece on worst CEO's of the year. I think he must have written a couple dozen on me in the last two years, but I did not mind, except for the creepy ones (complaining about how I don't always answer his email promptly? Geeesh: he reminded me of a scorned woman.)
And yet,after all this love, he left me out. I did not even the [sic] make the #1 spot here! I'm hurt. Of course, maybe he is getting some legal advice at the moment that explains his ducking his pat writings now....
Now, as Jeff Matthews points out as well, it's not a stretch to read an anti-Semitic tone into the letter. Not only does he finger all Jews in his conspiracy, but he, out of nowhere, throws in a jab at Thomas Friedman's uevenhandedness in covering Middle-East affairs. We'll leave the readers to decide this question for themselves.
It's well-known that Byrne is obsessed with what he sees as a shadowy cabal of Overstock short-sellers, but it's clear is that the David Rocker/TheStreet.com doesn't make sense. If TheStreet.com really were a vehicle for Mr. Rocker to bash stocks he was short, then any gains he might have made have been canceled out, surely, by the utterly dismal performance of TheStreet.com (NASD: TSCM) shares. Furthermore, it's not at all clear that TheStreet.com is particularly influential in moving a stock, unlike their star Jim Cramer. The company recently had to fold it's professional research division as it could not find a buyer for it.
Recently shares of the company have jumped on speculation that it might get taken over, though no price can possibly compensate long-term shareholders for the company's bad performance.
As for Byrne, we'll keep you apprised of what he's up to next.