Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Overstock's Creepy Strategy

Susan Antilla of Bloomberg has a great column on Overstock.com's smear site, antisocialmedia.net, and its intimidation campaign against critics. The title says it all: "Overstock Bellows, Blames With Creepy Strategy."

Before the article appeared, a clearly terrified Patrick Byrne tried to intimidate Antilla by posting her questions online, along with his own long-winded, evasive responses. He also used an ancient, bush league PR trick by demanding that his quotes be used in full or not at all. Antilla picked the "not at all" option: "I would happily map out Byrne's exact words, but he wouldn't agree to an interview unless I only quoted full sentences from his e-mails. Brevity isn't his style."

Byrne employed the same creepy-crawly tactics, with more apparent success, when a Business Week reporter named Tim Mullaney was planning a story on Overstock last year.

Byrne posted Mullaney's questions, and his slippery answers, on Overstock's de facto investor relations portal, the sanitycheck.com crackpot anti-naked-shorting website. (Though keep in mind that Bryne's account, as usual, is laced with fiction -- see this response from Mullaney.) His goon Phil Saunders, the ex-used medical equipment peddler and ace stock-picker who runs Sanitycheck, then obediently commenced a smear campaign against Mullaney.

The Business Week article never ran. While the reason may have been unrelated to Byrne's tactics, they had the appearance of working and, I am sure, emboldened Byrne.

They also deprived readers of an article that would have charted Overstock's impending financial disaster, judging from Mullaney's perceptive questions.

This time, all Byrne did was to make himself look like a fool. But that won't stop Byrne, the nauseating Bagley, and the handful of tinfoil hats who carry water for these night crawlers. I am sure that the smear campaign against Susan Antilla and Bloomberg will now commence, as this corporate train wreck digs itself deeper into the muck.

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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Wall Street Versus America was published by Penguin USA on April 6.
Click here for its Amazon.com listing and here for more information on the book, from my web site.

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