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: Patrick M. Byrne. Where am I from? Well I currently live Utah, but I’m actually from back east. I was born in Indiana, grew up around New England. I think of Vermont and New Hampshire as my home, but I spent my teenage years in . . . just outside of Washington, D.C.
Well I’m sure the New England upbringing gave me a traditional set of values and sort of Yankee values. I had . . . The time in D.C. really gave me a lot of exposure, I think, much more than I had growing up in Vermont and such – in New Hampshire and Connecticut – to the way things work. And . . . that’s kind of a vague answer. How did it shape me? I’d say actually where I came from, if I were to . . . If you want me to take a running start at it, I’d say I come from a family that’s Irish, middle class or lower middle income Irish immigrants from Long Island and New Jersey – Patterson, New Jersey and down to the southern tip of New Jersey. I think my pop was the first guy not only in his family but in his high school to go to college. He went on to the . . . went on to the GI . . . into the Air Force, but the GI Bill to graduate school in Michigan. And then I was born in Indiana, and I’d say that I know people . . . Well I’d say that my family really lived the Horatio Alger dream, because when I was born he was just off the GI Bill and on his first job. And then by the time I was 16 or 17, he had become . . . or our family had become affluent. So it was unusual in that I . . . I experienced as I was growing up . . . I think my worldview was formed when we were probably still, you know, lower middle income or middle income. And by the time I became 16, 17, 18 we were affluent. So I think sometimes my particular take on things was somewhat formulated by that experience. I was also extraordinarily lucky in that along the way, this funny guy started showing up at our house – this funny guy from Omaha whom nobody had ever heard of at the time . . . And he would show up, and visit us, and sit and talk with me for hours on end. So where I came from, if I . . . I’m probably blending a couple of answers together, but that’s where I . . . I think my . . . I came from in a socio-economic sense.
Recorded on: 10/29/07