Hip-Hop

US Government Sells One-Off Wu-Tang Clan Album to Cover Martin Shkreli's Debt

Wu-Tang Clan
Bob Berg/Getty Images

(L-R) U-God, Method Man, Raekwon, GZA, Ghostface Killah, Masta Killa, RZA, Ol' Dirty Bastard of the American rap group Wu-Tang Clan pose for a portrait circa April, 1997 in New York, New York.

'Once Upon a Time in Shaolin' was purchased by an anonymous buyer for an undisclosed amount.

The sole copy of Wu-Tang Clan’s Once Upon a Time in Shaolin has a new owner.

On Tuesday (July 27), the U.S. government announced that it had sold the album, which was previously bought by former pharmaceuticals CEO and convicted felon Martin Shkreli, to an anonymous buyer for an undisclosed amount. The proceeds from the sale have been applied to the outstanding $7.4 million forfeiture judgment Shkreli was hit with at his sentencing in March 2018, when he was also sentenced to seven years in prison for securities fraud. Shkreli was forced to forfeit his ownership of the album as a “substitute asset” following his sentencing.

In a statement, acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Jacquelyn M. Kasulis said that after the album sale, payment of Shkreli’s forfeiture judgment “is now complete.”

Shkreli, the founder and managing member of hedge funds MSMB Capital Management and MSMB Healthcare Management and former CEO of publicly-traded biopharmaceutical company Retrophin, was convicted in August 2017 of two counts of securities fraud and one count of securities fraud conspiracy for defrauding investors in his hedge funds and manipulating the price and trading volume of Retrophin’s stock. In addition to the forfeiture judgment, he was ordered to pay approximately $388,000 in restitution and a $75,000 fine. Shkreli’s conviction and sentence were affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in July 2019.

Shkreli’s 2017 conviction also required him to forfeit another unreleased album he claimed to own, Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter V, as a substitute asset to pay off the judgment, but that album was never recovered, according to court documents first reported by Pitchfork and later confirmed by Billboard.

Skhreli purchased Once Upon a Time in Shaolin at auction in 2015 for a reported $2 million. In 2018, Wu-Tang Clan member RZA said he had tried to purchase the album when Shkreli listed it on eBay just weeks after his conviction but that he was unable to do so due to a limitation in contracts that were signed during the initial sale. Earlier, RZA told Bloomberg that the group gave a "significant portion" of its proceeds from the album sale to charity after learning of Shkreli’s misdeeds.

The lone copy of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, produced by Tarik "Cilvaringz" Azzougarh with RZA and recorded over six years, came with a hand-carved silver-and-nickel-plated box and jewel case along with a 174-page leather-bound manuscript containing lyrics, credits and back stories on the production of each song as well as a certificate of authenticity. Under the initial deal with Shkreli, the businessman was required to wait 88 years to release the album to the public.