Price-Gouging Drug Executive Revealed as Buyer of Wu-Tang Clan Album
Martin Shkreli paid $2 million for 'Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.'
Online auction house Paddle8 announced in late November that a one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan album had been sold for "millions," but left out the part about who the buyer was. Now thanks to Bloomberg Business, we know who it was ... and you're not gonna like it.
The big spender was Martin Shkreli. You remember, the universally loathed Turing Pharmaceuticals executive who in September raised the price of antiparasitic drug Daraprim, commonly used to treat malaria, from $13.50 a pill to $750, earning him the title of "most hated man in America"? That guy.
Shkreli tells Bloomberg that months before the scandal, he attended a private listening session of Wu-Tang's Once Upon a Time in Shaolin and became convinced that he should buy it after being told that he'd get to "rub shoulders with celebrities and rappers." Indeed, after showing serious interest, he got to have lunch with RZA, though admits they "didn't have a ton in common."
According to Bloomberg, Shkreli's winning bid of $2 million was accepted in May (he won't say and Paddle8 doesn't disclose client information).
Following the Daraprim scandal, Shkreli says he was worried the band would back out of the deal. "But by then we'd closed," he notes. "The whole kind of thing since then has been just kind of 'Well, do we want to announce it's him? Do we not want to announce it's him?' I think they were trying to cover their butts a little bit."
After learning of Shkreli's business dealings — which came to light after the deal was closed — RZA told Bloomberg that the band gave a "significant portion" of the album's proceeds to charity.
The 31-track album was produced by Tarik "Cilvaringz" Azzougarh with RZA and recorded over six years. All other backup copies have been destroyed and it came with a silver-and-nickel-plated box and jewel case. The package also includes a 174-page manuscript containing lyrics, credits and back stories on the production of each song, printed on gilded Fedrigoni Marina parchment and encased in leather by a master bookbinder. Shkreli also received a pair of speakers worth $55,000. As part of the deal, the buyer must wait 88 years to release the album to the public; that means Shkreli would have to live to be 120 to do it himself.
Surprisingly, Shkreli has yet to even listen to the music (he had an assistant do that during the bidding process), and he doesn't seem to be in a hurry. "I could be convinced to listen to it earlier if Taylor Swift wants to hear it or something like that," he says. "But for now, I think I'm going to kind of save it for a rainy day."
For pissed off fans who will likely never hear the album, Shkreli makes it clear he doesn't care. "At the end of the day," he says, "they didn't buy the last album or the one before that, and all they had to pay was $10."
Such a charmer!
Punctuating just how rich he is, Shkreli was interviewed as he was preparing for a company holiday party that featured an appearance by "Trap Queen" rapper Fetty Wap. "Typically you would say, 'As an average fan, I can't get Fetty Wap to give me a personal concert,' " he says. "The reality is, sure you could. You know, at the right price these guys basically will do anything."
Additional reporting by Colin Stutz. This story originally appeared on Billboard.com.