Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Patrick Byrne Learns the Downside of Overexposure

Byrne silently gesturing for attention while the adults ignore him

My favorite stock market conspiracy theorist, Overstock.com's screwball CEO Patrick Byrne, has used two p.r. firms lately to get his puss on the public airwaves. Byrne, now carefully coiffed and coached, tries to avoid speaking about what's really on his mind--like the fax machine by which evil-doers give instructions to CNBC--and instead tries to sound reasonably rational.

That's fine if you run into clueless interviewers. It works less well if find yourself inserted into a discussion about which you know absolutely nothing, and have the misfortune of finding yourself on the TV screen with two people who know what they're talking about.

Fox Business News just today made the mistake of pairing Byrne with two congressional experts on, of all things, health care. Why FBN was expecting much on that subject from a CEO who has managed to drive his company into negative shareholder equity, utilizing accounting card tricks to manufacture tiny phony profits, is utterly beyond me.

The result can be found in the video here, in which Byrne babbled nonsense "past congressional action" causing the health care crisis for about fifteen seconds of a segment running over six minutes. Byrne was first slapped down by Rep. Jim Hime of Connecticut, but his comment was so mind-numbingly stupid that he found no relief from Hime's Republican interlocutor or from the host, and spent the rest of the interview silently squirming.

I can understand Byrne's motive, but I'm really at a loss to figure out why FBN puts him on the air.

Any other company's board of directors would have long since fired a buffoon who wastes time pontificating (badly) on cable TV while his company goes down the tubes. But remember that this is Overstock.com, the world-famous corporate crime petri dish.

© 2009 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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