Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Going to Work for Captain Queeg

Since I began tracking the activities of corporate train wreck, I've gotten a lot of hate mail from the general direction of, and also a lot of really fascinating stuff. Former associates of the company have been in touch. And the stories they tell are amazing.

These people are terrified of the reaction from the vindictive and unhinged CEO Patrick Byrne. I don't blame them. The they describe reminds me less of an Internet company than it does the U.S.S. Caine under Captain Queeg.

For instance, one former well-placed Overstock official wrote me after an item on Byrne's posturing over school vouchers. I was being unfair, evidently.

This issue, I'm told, "has been Patrick's passion for quite some time and goes back to his roots in economics… before he went nuts. . . He started his campaign for school vouchers years before his jihad against Wall Street and the downward spiral into which it has sent him."

This person stated that "I agree that the way he runs the company is awful . . However, I urge you to think twice about sullying the one good thing he’s trying to do."

Well, I stand corrected on that. Thanks for the vote of support in favor of the ex-boss. More excerpts from the ex-Overstock refugee camp can be found in the update here.

Evidently these ex-employees think too dang much. They must remember that sheer, blind sycophancy is the order of the day on the corporate Caine.

Paranoia too. "He keeps very close tabs on anything on the Internet that says something negative about him and has his people scour to find their identity," says one ex-Overstocker.

Still, ya got to eat. And for those who are not particular about their choice of employer, there is always But, as can be seen from the above, a special breed of employee is required. Thus I see that a creepy character named Evren Karpak has just joined the team. Byrne's new "Jihadist" in the war against the Sith Lord (right) announced his hiring by Overstock in this post on a stock message board yesterday.

What's remarkable about Karpak are his qualifications: he doesn't appear to have any, except for an ability to kiss Byrne's butt on Internet message boards and attack Byrne's critics. He's a kind of junior varsity Judd Bagley, who also was hired after attracting Byrne's attention by smearing Byrne's critics. Karpak's sliminess is chronicled here.

Karpak's duties were not disclosed, but I assume he'll be working for Bagley as a kind of aide de stalker.

This probably explains why Byrne went out of his way to distance himself from Karpak, at the tail end of a post on Sept. 20--just five days before Karpak announced his hiring by Byrne. In an odd addendum to the post, he said:

PS For the record:
1) Evren has no relation to Overstock. I believe I have never even spoken to him, but I recall a handful of emails from some time ago. I think these blackguards hate him because, though English be a second language to him, he writes better than they do, and also, because he is a Turk and they are bigots.
Never spoken to him? And five days he is hired? That strains belief, to say the least.

Given his penchant for serial fibbing, I assume this can be translated to mean that Karpak had a relationship with Overstock. In fact, I would not be surprised if he had been hired when those words were written. The SEC, which is investigating Byrne and, may want to explore just when Karpak began his job talks with

Karpak was notorious for posting hate-filled messages on stock message boards and serving as a volunteer stalker and toady for Bagley, who operates the corporate smear site. Karpak has aimed most of his venom at Sam Antar, the reformed felon who is working with regulators to bring bad companies like Overstock to justice.

When he wasn't bashing Byrne's critics Karpak has been a shameless shill for the company, and has been steadily posting his swill pretty much every day. This bit of syrupy cheerleading, for instance, was posted just five days before his announcement yesterday. Seems to me that any relationship with Overstock -- such as a pending job offer or talks related to employment -- should have been disclosed on the post. The SEC should explore whether Karpak received compensation of any kind for his aggressive shilling of the company and vicious attacks on Byrne's critics. And I would suggest that giving a cushy job to a message board shill is compensation, in and of itself.

Putting aside the significant ethical and legal aspects, Overstock is, of course, heading into a red-ink typhoon of the kind that almost foundered the Caine. So this is a really remarkable -- if unsurprising -- squandering of corporate resources. Such hirings do wonders for a company's morale, so I am sure there will be more ex-employees even if the company remains in business, which seems doubtful.

You have to admit that Karpak has shown the immorality and obsequiousness required to work for a nauseating company like this. Still, he'd better keep watch on the strawberries in the pantry, if I were him.

UPDATE: A grimy little company called BioTech Medics today pledged its fealty to Byrne and his baloney crusade. As long as he is flushing his shareholders' money down the toilet, why not buy this company as a gesture of gratitude?

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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