If you're missing the rebirth of Randy Moss on the football field this season, it's not too late to catch a similar metamorphosis of Overstock.com (Nasdaq: OSTK ) CEO Patrick Byrne in the boardroom.
This morning's quarterly report from the online retailer is a game-breaker. Revenue may have inched just 3% higher to $161.9 million, but it did so as sales and marketing expenses were nearly slashed in half. The net loss for the third quarter was reduced by 81% year over year to $0.20 a share, well ahead of the $0.39 deficit that analysts were expecting.
Overstock posted its first quarter of positive EBITDA outside the seasonally spiked holiday quarter, making it all too easy to drool over the blowout fourth quarter we're soaking in right now.
Overstock is for real. Shareholders already know that, having seen their shares more than double over the past 11 months. Now it's time for the market to notice.
The phantom menace
I'll be honest. I had forgotten about Overstock. I figured that Byrne's legacy would be similar to that of Ghyslain Raza -- a.k.a. the Star Wars Kid -- the portly French Canadian who will forever be the butt of Star Wars jokes. Byrne's tirade against naked short selling may have been justified or simply a corporate distraction, but once Sith Lord conspiracies crept into his vernacular, it was time to put away the calculator and go for the popcorn.
Overstock is far from becoming the all-weather letterman that Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) has become, but at least its financial statements are starting to hang with a better crowd. Sorry, Red Envelope (Nasdaq: REDE ) and Bluefly (Nasdaq: BFLY ) . You'll have to find a new loitering buddy as you sip widening losses out of brown paper bags outside the convenience store.
So what's the deal with Randy Moss? I'll explain. Like Moss, Byrne was a star in college before turning pro. The initial hype was justified. Moss had a stellar rookie year at Minnesota. Byrne followed in his father's footsteps, heading up a Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A ) subsidiary before turning heads at Overstock.
Then they both got complacent. They took plays off. They got distracted off the playing field. Their numbers began to diminish.
It's a whole new ball game in 2007. Moss was dumped by Oakland for a mere fourth-round draft pick, and he's responded. He now leads the league in receiving yards and touchdowns for the undefeated New England Patriots.
Byrne appears equally focused. His company is rolling in the right direction. Customer acquisition costs are plummeting. Overstock is actually posting positive operating cash flow over the trailing 12 months.
If you have soured on Overstock in recent years, take a second look. It's now the company you wanted it to be.
More wit, less Whitman
Where's the dark cloud? Auction volume is plummeting? Who cares? Overstock was never going to be eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY ) . Even Amazon.com and Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) have come to realize that.
Overstock is an Internet retailer, not a facilitator of consumer-to-consumer sales. A little more Jeff Bezos and a lot less Meg Whitman would be the best way for it to go. And if you're keeping score at home, Byrne is a lot more Bezos than Bozo in running a cost-effective operation these days.
Investors are now on the clock, with three months ticking down to what should be the mother of all holiday quarters at Overstock.
Kudos to you both, Moss and Byrne. Good luck in the pursuit of those championship rings. Three months from now, I'm guessing that I won't be the only one singing your praises.