With Martin Shkreli's recent arrest on charges of securities fraud, it seems that the former hedge fund manager turned pharmacological entrepreneur has officially established himself as this decade's Martha Stewart. Over the course of recent months, the 32-year-old wunderkind has established himself as "America's most hated man" when he purchased rights to Daraprim, a drug used to symptoms associated with HIV and cancer, and promptly raised the price by over 5,000 percent. Dubbed "the "Pharma bro" by media, he drew sharp criticism from many circles, even rankling presidential candidate Bernie Sanders who said he would call for a congressional investigation into Shkreli's business practices.
But as that controversy died down, Martin Shkreli managed to get everyone all worked up once more when news broke that he had shelled out major cash to buy one of the rarest musical recordings of the modern era. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Shkreli purchased the only copy of the album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin for somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 million back in August. Recorded by iconic rap act Wu-Tang Clan, the production and exclusivity of the piece effectively rendered it the most expensive album of all time as well as a unique piece of museum-quality artwork.
At the time, Shkreli played coy about the purchase, telling the media that he hadn't decided when he would actually get around to listening to the album. Initially, terms of the sale included a clause that the new owner of the recording could not release it to the public for 88 years. Ultimately, Wu-Tang Clan gave the buyer the final call as to how or even if the album could ever be shared by the masses. For his part, Shkreli suggested that he could be persuaded to spin the disc if had the right company around on some...enchanted evening.
"I could be convinced to listen to it earlier if Taylor Swift wants to hear it or something like that," Shkreli said of Wu-Tang Clan's Once Upon A Time In Shaolin. "But for now, I think I'm going to kind of save it for a rainy day."
Huffington Post reported that Shkreli later teased music enthusiasts via Twitter, posting quips like, "If there is a curious gap in your favorite artist's discography, well, now you know why."
Now that Martin Shkreli is in serious trouble with the United States Government for all sorts of alleged financial fudgery, Wu-Tang fans are wondering if Shaolin might end up in the custody of the feds along with the lion's share of Shkreli's assets. As of yet, the FBI denies laying hands on the prized platter.
As noted by Hip Hop DX, FBI's New York Office spoke on the matter via Twitter, explaining that no seizure warrant was issued at the time of Shkreli's arrest. As such, none of his assets were confiscated by authorities.
#Breaking no seizure warrant at the arrest of Martin Shkreli today, which means we didn't seize the Wu-Tang Clan album.Fans of the Wu-Tang Clan replied to the FBI's tweet with levity, posting comments like, "Thanks for nothing, FBI," and "you Had one job!" One fan, clearly hoping for something good to come out of the whole situation responded by asking, "but did you download it while you were there?"
— FBI New York (@NewYorkFBI) December 17, 2015
The saga of Once Upon A Time In Shaolin is far from over, as noted by The Atlantic's David Graham, who laid out a couple of possibilities in which the recording could ultimately find its way into the hands of someone who is willing to share it with fans. Discussing Shaolin, Graham raised the possibility that Shkreli might have to forfeit the album if it is proven that he used illegally obtained funds to purchase it, although that scenario does not seem to be terribly plausible. In fact at a press conference following Martin Shkreli's arrest, U.S. Attorney Robert Capers said he did not know if any ill-gotten gains figured into the Shaolin purchase.
The Atlantic also raised the possibility that Martin Shkreli might have to sell the album if he needs money for legal expenses or as the result of a forfeiture if he is convicted in the pending charges, but that particular resolution remains both in question and well into the future. For the time being, Martin Shkreli's immediate task is making sure that his journey through the bowels of karma doesn't someday end up packaged as a curious tale entitled "Once Upon A Time In Prison."
[Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella]