The U.S. Government Has Sold Martin Shkreli’s One-of-a-Kind Wu-Tang Album

The U.S. Government Has Sold Martin Shkreli’s One-of-a-Kind Wu-Tang Album
Photo: Spencer Platt, Getty Images

The sole copy of the Wu-Tang album previously owned by convicted edgelord Martin Shkreli has moved on to a better place, hopefully. The Department of Justice announced today that the federal government has sold the album to an unknown buyer for an unknown price. In 2018, RZA said that he wanted to be that buyer.

Shkreli purchased the album in 2015 for $US2 ($3) million for no apparent reason other than to rub it in everyone’s face. He handed over the album to the government as part of his $US7.4 ($10) million forfeiture money judgment.

So Martin Shkreli is again plain old Pharma Bro Martin Shkreli, who price gouged for medication and was convicted of securities fraud after allegedly lying to his hedge funds’ investors about their gains, claiming to manage $US40 ($54) million with only a few hundred dollars in a brokerage account, and squandering their money in the stock market.

RZA has said that he’d wanted the album to achieve myth status, and in a way, Shkreli did the job. “It’s like the Mona Lisa,” RZA told Rolling Stone about the coverage. “It’s got its own folklore, and that’s what me and [co-producer] Cilvaringz wanted.” They’d encased the album in a hand-carved nickel-silver box with a lyrics manuscript bound in leather, which you can see Shkreli smugly holding here.

When Shkreli bought the album “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” from RZA in November of 2015, he’d recently established his reputation as the guy who hiked the price of an antiparasitic drug, used as part of HIV treatment, from $US13.50 ($18) to $US750 ($1,019) per pill. Bernie Sanders subsequently rejected his campaign contribution and donated it to an HIV clinic; he rage-tweeted; he livestreamed his days on YouTube for some reason.

Perhaps for the last time, Shkreli was described by Bloomberg as a person who’d established a reputation as a “boy genius” and incidentally liked the song C.R.E.A.M. (Cash Rules Everything Around Me).

Then the trajectory went like this:

December 9th, 2015: Divulges that he purchased the album in a piece published by Bloomberg Businessweek.

December 18th, 2015: Is arrested for securities fraud. The Securities and Exchange Commission alleges that he’d misappropriated $US120,000 ($162,996) in funds from one of his hedge funds starting in 2009 and continued defrauding investors through 2014. On the same day, he steps down from a pharma company he founded and is fired for the third time from a CEO position, this time from a pharmaceutical company that produces cancer drugs.

December 23rd, 2016: Announces on Twitter’s Periscope that he’d also bought the sole copy of Lil’ Wayne’s “Carter V.”

January 2016: Court documents show he tapped his $US45 ($61) million E*Trade account for bail.

January 2016: Ghostface Killah describes him as a “shithead.”

January 2016: In a subsequent interview, Ghostface Killah describes him the “Michael Jackson nose kid.”

January 2017: Twitter suspends him after he harangues a journalist.

May 2017: Twitter permanently bans him; Shkreli announces that he has a sock puppet account; Twitter bans sock puppet account.

May 2017: Leaks two tracks allegedly from “Carter V.”

July 2017: Prosecutors allege he’s been tweeting throughout the trial, about the trial, under the handle “@BLMBro”

August 2017: Found guilty of three out of eight counts of fraud. Livestreams from his apartment drinking beer on the same day.

September 2017: Wu-Tang releases a track dissing his stone-cold drug price hikes.

December 2017: Prosecutors order him to forfeit the Wu-Tang album and a Picasso.

March 2018: He’s sentenced to seven years in prison

October 2018: Appears to list the album on eBay for $US1 ($1), claiming that he may cancel the sale, “break this album in frustration,” and donate half the proceeds to medical research. And for the record: “I am not selling to raise cash – my companies and I have record amounts of cash on hand.”

November 2019: The U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear his appeal, soon after which, the DOJ says, he finally forfeits the album.

Etc, etc, he’s currently in prison and due for release in September 2023. We’re all happy he doesn’t have the album around to smash when he comes home.