Former CEO sells his stake in

Overstock founder Patrick Byrne, who resigned abruptly as CEO last month, has sold his entire stake in the online retailer.

Byrne unloaded close to 5 million shares, worth about $90 million before taxes, according to a regulatory filing Wednesday evening. Byrne was previously the company’s largest shareholder. Last month, after resigning, he told Forbes that he intended to hold onto his shares, saying he had “great, great enthusiasm for the prospects of the company.”

However, Byrne said he would be putting the proceeds into gold, silver and cryptocurrencies. He referred to these investments as “countercyclical to the economy.”

Byrne went on to say that in the event of an economic downturn, the value of these assets would rise, and he would be in a position to provide a capital injection to Overstock. “You will have not just access to capital, you will have access to the friendliest capital imaginable: my own,” he wrote.

He also said his decision to sell his shares was prompted by a fear of retaliation from the government, which he referred to as the “Deep State,” for reasons that were not entirely made clear. “If I had stayed at Overstock or even remained a large owner of OSTK, they would try to break Overstock as a way of crippling me,” he wrote.

Byrne stepped down as Overstock’s longtime CEO in August, after disclosing that he had been involved as a federal informant in the investigation of accused Russian spy Maria Butina. In his resignation letter, he cited his involvement in “certain government matters” as complicating “all manner of business relationships from insurability to strategic discussions regarding our retail business.”

However, there is more to the story. In recent years, Byrne had become captivated by blockchain technology, a decentralized, distributed ledger technology that underlies cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. He had funneled Overstock’s dwindling resources into blockchain ventures—more than $200 million since 2014—yet had little to show for it. The company’s blockchain investment arm, Medici Ventures, has yet to generate meaningful revenues and racked up losses of $61 million in 2018.

Byrne also began exploring a sale of the retail business in 2017, but to date no buyers have materialized. Overstock, once reliably profitable, lost $206 million last year and $110 million in 2017. The company’s heavily shorted stock has plummeted from $87 in early 2018 to $15.30 at the start of trading on Thursday as some $1.5 billion in market capitalization has evaporated.


BJ’s names Lee Delaney as president

Lee Delaney, chief commercial officer at BJ’s Wholesale Club, has been promoted to president.

BJ’s said that Delaney, previously executive vice president, begins in the new role effective immediately. With the move, he adds the president’s title from Christopher Baldwin, chairman and CEO. Delaney will continue to report to Baldwin.

“Lee’s strategic vision and leadership have been instrumental in transforming BJ’s Wholesale Club,” Baldwin said in a statement on the promotion of Delaney (left). “We are creating a focused commercial organization that will provide outstanding member service by delivering great products at unbeatable value. Under Lee’s leadership, the new organization will build on our progress as we continue our transformation, driving long-term, profitable growth. I look forward to continuing to partner with Lee to transform BJ’s Wholesale Club.”

Delaney joined Westborough, Mass.-based BJ’s in May 2016 as executive vice president and chief growth officer. He became executive VP and chief commercial officer in February 2018. Before coming to the warehouse club retailer, Delaney was a partner at the Boston office of Bain & Co., where he was a leader in the firm’s consumer products practice, and prior to that worked for Electronic Data Systems and Deloitte Consulting.

“We have great opportunities ahead of us, and I’m thrilled to lead a strong team as we execute our strategic priorities,” Delaney stated. “The new structure will enable us to create a seamless membership experience from acquisition to renewal while providing the outstanding value and service that members expect from BJ’s Wholesale Club. I look forward to building on our momentum as we continue our transformation.”

BJ’s, which became a public company again in June 2018, operates 217 wholesale clubs and 141 BJ’s Gas locations in 16 states.


Jack Ma officially retires as Alibaba’s chairman

Jack Ma stepped down as Alibaba’s chairman today, handing the role over to the company’s current CEO, Daniel Zhang. The transition was announced a year ago.

Ma will continue serving on Alibaba’s board until its annual general shareholders’ meeting next year. He also remains a lifetime partner of Alibaba Partnership, a group drawn from the senior management ranks of Alibaba Group companies and affiliates that has the right to nominate (and in some situations, appoint) up to simple majority of its board.

Ma said in last year’s announcement that he plans for his departure from Alibaba Group to be very gradual: “The one thing I can promise everyone is this: Alibaba was never about Jack Ma, but Jack Ma will forever belong to Alibaba.”

Ma left Alibaba’s CEO position in 2013 and was succeeded first by Jonathan Lu. In 2015 Lu was replaced by Zhang, the company’s former COO. As its CEO and now its chairman, Zhang has taken Alibaba’s reins as it copes with a slowdown in China’s e-commerce market after a decade of explosive growth. The online retail landscape also now includes new players like Pinduoduo, which have gained an advantage by focusing on smaller cities, which are important growth markets for internet companies.

One interesting fact about the day Ma chose for his retirement as chairman is that it is Teachers’ Day in China. Ma is a former English teacher who is still nicknamed “Teacher Ma” and has said that he plans to devote time to education philanthropy.