SALT LAKE CITY — Overstock.com announced Monday that founder and CEO Patrick Byrne will take an indefinite leave of absence for medical reasons.
It is unknown if he will return to work, according to the Utah-based online retailer.
In a letter to stockholders, Bryne wrote that for more than a year he has been "gutting it out" through a stage IV diagnosis of hepatitis C, contracted in 1984 in Xinjiang, China, "when a barefoot doctor sewed up a head wound under less than ideal conditions."
He said he has finished treatment and thinks he has it beat, "but only time will tell."
In the statement, Byrne quotes Chief Dan George in the Clint Eastwood movie "The Outlaw Josey Wales" saying, "I myself never surrendered. But they got my horse, and it surrendered."
Overstock has been steadily profitable, bringing in $1.7 billion in sales in 2015. The company expects to have $40 million in net income this year.
Byrne has become known for his campaign against illegal naked short selling. Byrne and securities regulators maintain illegal naked shorting has been used in violation of securities law to hurt the price of his and other public companies' stock. Overstock became a publicly traded company in 2002.
He also has been involved in education issues. In 2007, Byrne and his family contributed most of the funds in support of a proposal in Utah that would allow the state to provide funding vouchers for students who decide to leave public schools for private schools.
Voters rejected the issue in a referendum, prompting Byrne to call it a "statewide IQ test" that Utahns failed.
Byrne recommended to the board of directors that Mitch Edwards, a veteran internet and tech executive with firms such as BitTorrent and Skullcandy — and general counsel of Overstock since last August — serve as acting CEO.
Overstock board chairman Jonathan Johnson is challenging Gov. Gary Herbert for the Republican nomination for Utah governor.