Pharma CEO Who Hiked Price of AIDS Drug by 5,000% Spent Millions Buying the Only Copy of New Wu-Tang LP
Back in September, Martin Shkreli, the CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, bought the rights to Darapim, a 62-year-old drug designed to treat the parasitic infection toxoplasmis, which can be life-threatening in patients with immune problems. He then promptly upped the price from $13.50 to approximately $750 per pill, a 5,000% increase that he defended by saying the profits would go towards researching more effective toxoplasmis treatments.
That defense confused many in the medical community; as Dr. Wendy Armstrong, professor of infectious diseases at Emory University in Atlanta, explained at the time, “I certainly don’t think this [toxoplasmis] is one of those diseases where we have been clamoring for better therapies.”
For someone who ostensibly didn’t engineer that price hike for personal gain, Shkreli sure has been living luxuriously. It’s now been revealed that Skhreli recently outbid others to buy the sole existing copy of Wu-Tang’s Once Upon A Time in Shaolin, the most expensive album ever made. Last year, Wu-Tang’s RZA described the single-edition album, which was stored in a vault in Morocco until Shkreli purchased it for “millions,” as “a single-sale collector’s item. This is like somebody having the scepter of an Egyptian king.”
If there is a curious gap in your favorite artist’s discography, well, now you know why.
— Martin Shkreli (@MartinShkreli) December 9, 2015
Bloomberg notes that Shkreli became a fan of Wu-Tang as a teenager, particularly the “song C.R.E.A.M., which stands for ‘Cash Rules Everything Around Me.'” In recent months, Bloomberg says the C.E.O. has begun channeling his passion for music into collecting memorabilia:
Now that Shkreli had more money, he started collecting music-related items. He once joked on Twitter about trying to buy Katy Perry’s guitar so he could get a date with her. He purchased Kurt Cobain’s Visa card in a Paddle8 auction and occasionally produces it to get a rise out of people when it’s time to pay a check.
Shkreli heard about Once Upon a Time in Shaolin and thought it would be nice to own, too. He attended a private listening session at the Standard Hotel hosted by Paddle8 co-founder Alexander Gilkes. Shkreli, who describes himself as a bit of a recluse, recalls Gilkes telling him that if he bought the record, he would have the opportunity to rub shoulders with celebrities and rappers who would want to hear it. “Then I really became convinced that I should be the buyer,” Shkreli says. (Paddle8 declined to comment, citing their policy of client confidentiality.) He also got to have lunch with RZA. “We didn’t have a ton in common,” Shkreli says. “I can’t say I got to know him that well, but I obviously like him.”
Per copyright law, Shkreli can’t legally release a copy of the album for 88 years or reproduce it for sale, although he can host listening sessions. Shkreli told Bloomberg, “I could be convinced to listen to it earlier if Taylor Swift wants to hear it or something like that. But for now, I think I’m going to kind of save it for a rainy day.”
In a statement to Bloomberg, Wu-Tang explained:
The sale of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin was agreed upon in May, well before Martin Skhreli’s [sic] business practices came to light. We decided to give a significant portion of the proceeds to charity.
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