March 12, 2013, 3:50 PM

Overstock.com’s former chairman dies

John Byrne invested in his son Patrick’s startup e-commerce operation.

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John Byrne

John J. Byrne, former chairman of Overstock.com Inc., has died. He was chairman of the web-only retailer from its launch in 1999 until 2002, and in more recent years intermittently served terms on the e-retailer’s board of directors, most recently during 2010-2011. He was 80.

Overstock.com is a family affair. Byrne’s son, Patrick Byrne, founded the e-retailer and is chairman of the board and chief executive officer, although he is on leave for medical reasons.

John Byrne, widely known as Jack, had a storied career well before the Internet age. In the mid-1970s, he nursed the nearly bankrupt insurance company Government Employees Insurance Companies—better known today by the acronym GEICO—back to profitability and later led Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. and the company now known as White Mountain Insurance Group.

“A portion of his legacy and mentorship lives within Overstock.com,” says Stormy Simon, co-president, Overstock.com.  “It isn’t just the financial investment with the stock he purchased.  It’s the personal investment by being our chairman, mentor and sharing his years of business knowledge that will continue to contribute to our success.  The world is less of a place because he passed, but we are a much better company because he was.”   

Overstock is No. 27 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide. In January it reported 2012 sales of $1.099 billion.

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