Marchick, Byrne, and their colleagues eagerly await the next round of dot-com deaths. “I think there are a lot of big people about to go out of business in the next two to three months,” says Byrne. On his radar screen are several big electronics sites and “everybody whose basic model is buying at wholesale and selling just a bit above wholesale.” One of the companies he’s been watching, eToys, announced at press time that it would cease operations.

To Byrne, businesses like Overstock. com serve an important role in the eco-nomy. Like the real vulture, whose utility in the ecosystem is proven, he’s helping the marketplace by dismantling the dying and digesting their assets for consumption by other market organisms. “I view us as a machine, a meat grinder,” Byrne told the Los Angeles Times in January.

“We’re shoving through the carcasses of these companies, and on the other side comes savings for the public. ...I’m not dancing with joy on other people’s graves.”

Madison, Wisonsin-based Gaska writes business and technology stories for Working Mother, Popular Science, and several trade publications.