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THE WORST BUSINESS CEOS IN AMERICA
Mired in financial and legal trouble, Talos Partners CEO, Robert V. Brazell tops our list
NEWS TO HELP INVESTORS AVOID TAKING A BEATING
Patrick Byrne's six page Declaration regarding Rob Brazell's role at Overstock.com and more.
"Brazell was not an employee of the company when we launched, had no position in the company, had no legal relationship other than shareholder, and was not welcome on the premises."
ROBERT BRAZELL PERPETRATES ONE OF THE BIGGEST BRAND FRAUDS OF THE DECADE*, PATRICK BYRNE, CEO OF OVERSTOCK.COM RELEASES DECLARATION OF TRUTH
Investors, friends, and family members duped. New Declaration from Overstock.com CEO sets the record straight according to Byrnes.
For almost 15 years, Robert V. Brazell, a Salt Lake City businessman, has purported that he was “the founder and founding board member of Overstock.com and also served as the company's president and chief executive officer.” He branded himself as a successful entrepreneur, attaching himself to Overstock.com’s success, and continues to try and ride that same wave today. Through his claims, he was able to induce over 200 million dollars of investment into his subsequent ventures, the largest of which is now allegedly insolvent and mired in multiple lawsuits, including a securities fraud and fraudulent inducement lawsuit from over 40 investors and entities.
Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock.com Releases 6 Page Declaration
On April 30, 2014, Patrick Byrne, one of the first major investors in Overstock.com’s predecessor Discounts Direct and the current CEO of Overstock.com, released a Declaration under penalty of perjury that purports that Rob Brazell was fired from Discounts Direct in before Overstock.com was started. He states, “In October, 1999 we launched Overstock.com. Brazell was not an employee of the company when we launched, had no position in the company, had no legal relationship other than shareholder, and was not welcome on the premises.” Overstock.com went public three years later.
The six page Declaration below covers multiple topics in regard to Robert Brazell’s involvement with the company and with Mr. Byrnes personally.
If indeed what Patrick Byrne has declared is true, Robert Brazell will have pulled off one of the biggest brand frauds of the decade—even duping close family and friends—and raising, spending, and losing hundreds of millions of investor’s dollars.
Robert Brazell had also been misleading in regard to his education. Mr. Brazell has stated on multiple social media sites under the topic of Education: “University of Utah.” An Executive Focus article published in the Desert News stated that Robert Brazell had graduated from the University of Utah with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, but a DegreeVerify Certificate from the National Student Clearinghouse shows that Mr. Brazell only attended the University for a little over a year with “No Degree —Enrollment Only.”
One Utah attorney advises to Google search before you invest to learn the background of an individual or company that may include; pending lawsuits or investor complaints.
Had investors known the truth about Robert Brazell’s real involvement with Overstock.com would they still have invested? Kevin Smith, a plaintiff in the Utah Securities Fraud lawsuit and a resident of Texas says, “Absolutely not! The main reason I invested in the In-Store Broadcasting Company was because Rob Brazell represented he had successfully taken Overstock.com public. Had I known that he was fired, or not involved in taking the company public, I never would have put money into any of his offerings. Misrepresenting your career and/or education are big red flags.”
Robert Brazell is currently facing multiple lawsuits in Salt Lake City, Utah and Collin County and Dallas, Texas. Brazell’s failure to comply with orders in a Collin County court resulted in a warrant for his arrest, and a $250,000 cash bond. Robert Brazell, Von H. Whitby (another Utah resident), former senator Robert Kasten and others have been charged with Securities Fraud, Fraudulent Misrepresentation, Fraudulent Inducement and Rescission, Promissory Estoppel, Civil Conspiracy, and Common-Law Fraud. Trial dates in all lawsuits are upcoming.
Patrick Byrne has also written a new blog post discussing more information about Robert Brazell and his business practices here http://www.deepcapture.com/robert-brazell-shyster-extraordinaire/
DECLARATION OF PATRICK M. BYRNE
I, Patrick M. Bryne, declare as follows:
I. In the spring of 1999 I learned of a firm that was in the flea market liquidation business.
2. Rob Brazell had originally formed a company that used a broadcast fax method to alert people in the flea market industry of available product liquidation lots, and interested purchasers could order those lots using the telephone's push buttons.
3. Around the time that I first learned of the company, I was told that it had a site that allegedly displayed such liquidation product lots for sale on the Internet, but in fact the site was informational only: that is, there was no technology connecting the site to any products in warehouses or customer service systems. However, the site did have a feature to charge credit cards. My understanding of the process was that Brazell would charge credit cards, then, afterwards call around to try to buy the products that had been ordered.
4. Also, about this time, I learned the business was out of cash, and my recollection is that it would be shutting its doors in two weeks.
5. Despite the system's primitive nature and obvious shortcomings, I recognized the opportunity the internet presented for this business model.
6. My first meeting with Brazell, his lawyer, and backers was awkward. They expressed their general discomfort with me (not a Utah native), and whether I was a "vulture capitalist," intent on stealing their business. I assured them otherwise, and believing that time was of the essence and that the product buying team Brazell had assembled would give a great head start in developing this business model, I made an offer to buy a minority stake in the business for $4 million.
7. The reaction of Brazell and his lawyer to the offer was odd: They decided that if they waited another couple of weeks until the business was about to close, they would then have greater leverage and could demand better terms.
8. I left, telling them to get in touch if that day came.
9. The following Thursday they called to inform me they were going bankrupt the next day, Friday, and insisted there now was greater leverage, because of the eminent bankruptcy.
10. I told them I would inject the same $4 million that I had offered previously, but now I wanted 60% of the business. Brazell accepted.
11. Lawyers set to work handling completing the transaction, but because of the eminent bankruptcy, it was not possible to perform any due diligence on the operation, if we were to infuse capital and keep the firm alive, which we did.
12. In early June, 1999, I went to see Rob Brazell to examine the business more closely. In my meeting with Rob Brazell, in a roundabout way, he explained the company had a small "logistics" problem: For some time they had been taking orders for products they did not actually have. For example, the company would wait until it had, say, orders for six units of some model of a Seiko watch, then the company would call Seiko and try to buy six units of the watches, receive them in their office, then re-mail them to the six purchasing customers.
13. Brazell went on to tell me the company had been taking the cash that they had been getting by charging customer credit cards and using it to pay operating expenses, so they were "in a little bind," and Brazell said he wanted my advice.
14. At first I did not completely understand what Brazell was saying, but I asked him, "How much would it cost to buy all the inventory you have already charged people for?" He told me, "$300,000."
15. I was shocked at the size of the number and his description of it as a "logistics" problem. I asked, "So how quickly can you buy those and get them out to people?" Brazell replied, "We could do that in a week or so. But I have a better idea. I have scouted out a space on the west side of town. We could move there, change our name, and ... " Brazell continued explaining as I, puzzled, lost the thread, trying to understand how any of such maneuvers would solve the fact that there were customers expecting $300,000 of products that they did not have.
16. But then, I understood: Brazell was suggesting that we just swindle those people of the $300, 000 and disappear under a new name and address. As soon as I understood this, I cut him off and told him, "Of course we are going to buy the $300,000 of products and send them to everyone who ordered them. And don't ever suggest something like that to me again."
17. On the same day, I discovered that the CFO could not answer basic questions about, for example, the difference between gross margin and net margin. I told him I wanted to check on his CPA credentials, at which point he got up, walked out and quit the company. I inserted my own man as CFO to make sure no further untoward activities occurred.
18. At this point I belatedly conducted due diligence on Rob Brazell.
19. In that review, some of what I was told is as follows:
a. One company he had run he had gotten short on cash and solved the problem by going into his credit card receipts and randomly picking hundreds of people to whom he could charge $100 each, in order to keep the company afloat.
b. He had stopped paying for health insurance for his employees and their families, without telling them.
c. He had had some difficulty with the Utah Attorney General over soliciting and getting people to purchase interests in various "get-rich-quick schemes" that never panned out, and had to sign a Consent Decree with the Utah Attorney General.
d. He had worked at a company that was in the flea market supply business, but he used his position as Sales Manager to obtain and use without permission all that firm's customers by diverting them a new business he started himself, causing the collapse of the business for which he had been working.
20 . As these issues came to light, I altered my personal plans, I left a teaching position, went to Utah, and starting digging in. As I did so, it was apparent that the company was going to need personnel changes and in September, 1999, I began cutting employees, starting with Brazell himself. Over the next month or two, I cut twelve out of eighteen people.
21. I also found out that corporate governance records were in a poor condition and I hired lawyers to do the work necessary to put them in order.
22. While this was going on, Brazell demanded to meet me off-site to air his feelings of having been cheated out of his company. During this meeting, Brazell signed the papers necessary to straighten out the corporate governance issues we had discovered and I provided him copies. About two hours later, Brazell called me from the office of his lawyer, and demanded a return of the signature pages of documents he had just signed and I refused.
23. In October, 1999 we launched Overstock.com. Brazell was not an employee of the company when we launched, had no position in the company, had no legal
relationship other than shareholder, and was not welcome on the premises.
24. Subsequently, I remember an incident where Brazell tried to cheat his former secretary out of her investment in the company. At one point Brazell persuaded her to invest her life savings of $180,000 in the company. At the valuations we were then looking at, her investment would have been worth approximately $1,000,000. I saw Brazell talking to her one day and he left quickly when I walked towards him. Later she came to me and stated that Brazell was now claiming that her investment was really just a loan, and he gave her a check for $180,000 and said he was keeping the stock. I hired a lawyer to defend her and he threatened suit, which threat was resolved only when Brazell tearfully signed papers in my office returning the stock to his secretary and allowing her to keep the $180,000 check.
I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of Utah the foregoing is true and correct.
Executed this 30th day of April, 2014.
Signed - Patrick M. Byrne
*Robert Brazell has claimed on his own website to be the "17th most successful internet entrepreneur in history." He sites Overstock.com's success as a top earning site in a recent article, despite not playing any role with the company for the past 14 years.
Forbes says a CEO should above all protect investor share value
Robert V. Brazell tops our list of small business CEOs that fails time and again to provide returns, while living high off investor's money. Now mired in legal and financial trouble, the truth about Rob Brazell is finally reaching the market where potential investors can make better and more informed decisions before putting their money at risk.
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