Who is Martin Shkreli? It’s a question he probably asks himself when he looks in the mirror each morning, when he remembers the outrage caused in September when it emerged that his company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, had bought the anti-HIV drug Daraprim and duly jacked the price of each pill from $13.50 to $750.
Hilary Clinton was not happy. The Presidential hopeful expressed dismay at the move during a Facebook Q&A: “Did you see the outcry last week about the former hedge fund manager who bought up drug patents, then raised the price of medicine for AIDS patients by more than 5000%?” She demanded that he lowered the price of the drug, even making an ad campaign about the controversy, which concludes with her saying: “No-one in America should have to choose between buying the medication they need and paying the rent.”
If this has caused the New Yorker any soul-searching, he seems to have reached the conclusion that he is not evil, but – first and foremost – a music fan, two demographics that have rarely overlapped, except for that fact that Mugabe loves a bit of Cliff Richard.
As we discussed yesterday, Shkreli was recently revealed as the millionaire who paid a reported $2m for the new Wu Tang Clan album ‘Once Upon a Time In Shaolin’, of which only one copy exists. It comes with a lush book of lyrics and backstory to the songs and contractually cannot be released for public consumption for 88 years. (It has also been claimed that there’s a clause in contract that Wu Tang and, naturally, Bill Murray can steal it back without legal repercussions, though this is perhaps a little too good to be true.) Well, this has caused some commotion, and Shkreli seems to have been enjoying the attention, despite his claims to the contrary.
Around the time of the purchase, he commented that he bought he album to improve his chances of rubbing shoulders with rapper and celebrities. Friendships take time and effort, but just imagine how instantly popular he’d be if he had more than one long-anticipated album locked in a vault that no-one can ever listen to! This is the masterstroke he’s recently hit upon, if his Twitter feed is anything to by.
All of this appears to have made Shkreli excited about the prospect of becoming a music expert – or music’s Richie Rich, at least – as he has lamented the current state of music in general, declaring himself a better fan than other people who listen to music. He has offered to remedy this with a “test” that people must pass to “listen to a new & enlightened class of music”, though sadly the test has not appeared.
Is Martin Shkreli straight trollin’, or genuinely losing his marbles? Is he going all Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now, and will we soon all have to join his cult before we’re allowed to listen to the new Kanye album? Will we have to cruise up the Nung River to Shkreli’s mud hut in Vietnam before we can hear what Katy Perry’s been up to recently?
Here are five things you should know about Martin Shkreli:
1 Shkreli grew up in the Sheepshead Bay part of Brooklyn, which he has described as rough, and his parents were originally from Albania.
2 He was so smart at school that he skipped several grades, graduating from Baruch College in New York in 2004.
3 He started his hedge fund, Elea Capital Management, in 2006. Elea was sued for $2.3 by Lehman Brothers. As Bloomberg put it: “In 2007, Lehman Brothers sued Elea in New York state court for failing to cover a ‘put option transaction’ in which Shkreli bet the wrong way on a broad market decline. When stocks rose, Shkreli didn’t have the funds to make the bank whole. In October 2007, Lehman won a $2.3 million default judgment against Shkreli and Elea. The following year, however, Lehman imploded. No one ever demanded the $2.3 million.”
4 In 2008 Shkreli started MSMB Capital Management, a company from which he launched Turing Pharmaceuticals and the biotech firm Retrophin, whose board then ousted him in 2014 and sued him for $65m, claiming – according to the BBC – that “he improperlyhandled legal settlements”. Shkreli denied the allegations.
5 He owns Kurt Cobain’s Visa card, which he bought from the same auctioning site that sold the Wu Tang album.