The Motley Fool Previous Page Why Can't a CEO Tell the Truth? [Special] February 18, 2004

David Gardner and Tom Gardner
February 18, 2004

David and Tom Gardner recently OSTK) CEO Patrick Byrne onThe Motley Fool Radio Show  on NPR. The company purchases excess inventory from manufacturers and distributors and resells it on its website. This is the second of four parts; all previous parts are linked to the right.

TMF: You have been very forthcoming about your company, talking about its strengths and weaknesses in your previous appearance. We commended your candor; we called it "refreshing." Certainly candor can be attractive to investors, especially those who have been burned by some bad criminal CEOs in the past few years. But your style does have its critics, as you identified in a recent interview with Fortune Magazine. You said, "Cynics claim that my candor is but an attempt to pump my stock by drawing investors looking for someone who does not pump his stock." You went on to say, "I am flattered to have attributed to me such Machiavellian subtleties."

Byrne: I have gone really out of my way to do something not many presidents do, which is I say, "Hey this stuff is going well with the company, and this other stuff isn't. And this is what we are working on." Well, as your fellow, Bill Mann has written, we live in a day when things are going well, CEOs say, "Everything is super-de-dooper," and when things are going awfully, they say, "Well, everything is just super-dooper." I am out there not trying to do either. I am just saying, "Hey, this stuff is working out; this stuff isn't. We are going to focus on that."

In today's era, because of that climate, when you do have that kind of candor, people think that there is some hidden message. I wonder how long I have to be like this before people understand that when I say "X" I really just mean "X." I am not trying anything; there are no hidden messages or anything.

Suppose you have a pretty good quarter and you wan