Patrick M. Byrne is the CEO of the Internet retailer Overstock.com. Byrne received his B.A. from Dartmouth, studied at Cambridge University as a Marshall Scholar, and earned a PhD in Philosophy from Stanford University. He co-founded Overstock.com in 1997 and became CEO in 1999. In 2005, Byrne initiated a controversial campaign against "naked short selling" in which he accused a "Sith Lord" and various financial firms of sabotaging Overstock's share price. Byrne also serves as head of First Class Education, an education lobbying group that seeks to require that 65% of all educational spending be spent "in the classroom." A strong proponent of school vouchers, Byrne spent almost four million dollars in advertising for a bill that would have given Utah residents who enroll their children in private schools taxpayer-supported subsidies. The bill lost, 62-38%.
Patrick Byrne: What inspires me? Education. I think if there is a chance – if we have a shot as a republic, it’s going to be in the education system. We blew it as a generation and the generation before us. We blew it. But if we can get the education fixed . . . system fixed, we might be able to come out of it. I mean my mom was always saying, “You stand up for what’s right with the whole world practically . . . stand for what’s right.” And the truth is most of the time the world falls on you and it crushes you. But once in a while you stand up and it falls on you and you can crack the world. And it’s all not going to matter in 50 million years. The only thing that’s going to not have faded is the form with which you live your life. So that advice . . . I mean sometimes I’m accused of being an extremist. But to me it’s almost an experiment to see what happens if you just stand up and you don’t budge for . . . And by the way there is no intellectual debate anymore about my claims on Wall Street. That whole . . . All these things have come true. The whole intellectual debate’s over. There’s conferences on Wall Street now, where a year ago when people tried to talk about this, it was academics and Wall Street guys shouting at each other. They just had the same _________ conference a few weeks ago, and that whole debate is over. Everybody gets that we’re right, that we’re right on the facts. The debate is how do you change the regulations. But the whole intellectual debate’s been won. In fact one reporter from a major news wire who is friendly to me wrote me, and I said, “When is that story gonna come about . . .?” Oh we had 1,000 stories about how crazy this guy was. And where’s the story? Well all these things have turned out to be pretty much right. And she wrote back and said, “You . . . Don’t expect it. People know it, but people aren’t gonna write that story.”
Recorded on: 10/29/07