A Timeline of Events Since Martin Shkreli Purchased Wu Tang Clan's 'Once Upon a Time in Shaolin'
A Brooklyn federal judge ordered pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli on Monday (Mar. 5) to give up $7.36 million worth of assets after getting convicted of securities fraud. The sentence comes just a few months after his arrest.
The “Pharma-bro” became famous—or infamous for that matter—when his firm Turing Pharmaceuticals of New York skyrocketed the price of AIDs-fighting Daraprim from $13.50 per pill to $750.
Potentially the most devastating of these assets Shkreli will forfeit is the sole copy of Wu Tang Clan’s Once Upon a Time in Shaolin album he bought for $2 million in 2015. After the purchase, he became hated among Wu Tang fans, teasing the release of the album. Plenty of drama occurred from the purchase to the forfeiture, and reading about it would take ages. Billboard has you covered. Here’s a timeline of Shkreli’s ownership of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.
In a profile with Vice, author Allie Conti noted that the executive “vacillates between wanting to destroy the record and dreaming of installing it in some remote place so that people have to make a spiritual quest to listen.” He even bragged about being music’s villain for buying the album in the first place.
Jason Koza’s lawsuit said the album violated copyright laws, claiming his portraits of the hip-hop group he made in 2013 and 2014 were used without his permission. He sought unspecified damages from multiple people involved, including Shkreli, a Wu-Tang leader, one of the album’s producers and the auctioneer.
The day after Trump was elected, the executive released a series of videos, featuring him with parts of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin playing in the background. According to Pitchfork, Shkreli decided to negotiate with Wu Tang Clan on releasing the rest of the album, since he didn’t expect the Republican candidate to actually win.
After he was found guilty on three counts of securities fraud, the “Pharma Bro” sat down with an interviewer to discuss the verdict. On the album, he said he purchased it because he loves music and particularly hip-hop. “I don’t buy fancy things. I donated $2 million to Wu-Tang. I got a mixtape in return. It was a wonderful investment,” he said to the interviewer. Listen to the clip below around the 49-minute mark.
September 1, 2017 – The pharmaceutical wanted to sell the album
After taunting fans for nearly two years with teases and snippets of the unreleased record, Shkreli listed the project on eBay. In the description for the listing, he mentions Wu Tang member Ghostface Killah, who was seen on TMZ calling Shkreli a “s—thead” for raising the price of Daraprim. "I decided to purchase this album as a gift to the Wu-Tang Clan for their tremendous musical output. Instead I received scorn from at least one of their (least-intelligent) members, and the world at large failed to see my purpose of putting a serious value behind music,” he wrote. He also noted that half the proceeds would go to medical research.
Business publication Bloomberg spoke to several of the group’s affiliates, particularly Killa Sin. According to Sin, the record was originally meant for Moroccan producer Cilvaringz. “The way he presented it was it was going to be basically his album, and he wanted me to do some work for him.” Member U-God’s manager Domingo Neris agreed, saying, “It’s not an authorized Wu-Tang Clan album.”
December 2017 – The court threatens to seize the record
Shkreli was arrested and put in jail on charges he cheated investors on two failed hedge funds. While awaiting an official sentence, Brooklyn prosecutors wanted the federal court to seize $7 million in assets, including his Picasso painting, Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter V album and the Wu Tang Clan record.
March 5, 2018 – It’s official, Shkreli must forfeit the record
The order by U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto comes just four days before the pharmaceutical will receive his sentence. In a letter he wrote to the judge, Shkreli showed a different, softer side of himself after having an attitude during the trial. “I was wrong. I was a fool. I should have known better.”