In 2015, then-pharma executive Martin Shkreli made multiple headlines. The first was when he raised the cost of the HIV drug Daraprim, from $13.50 to $750 a tablet. This was a price increase by an incredible 5,000 percent. People were justifiably mad, and maybe most of the common population of the country didn’t feel too bad for the man when he was sentenced to 7 years in prison due to securities fraud in 2018.
What makes Shkreli a story for music journalists around the world is the other headline he made in 2015. He bought the one of a kind, meaning the only copy in existence, Wu Tang album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin. Reportedly he bought the rare album for $2 million.
In a 2016 stunt, Shkreli then promised to release the album to the public, for free, if Trump won the 2016 election. Well, Trump won and Shkreli didn’t release anything from his rare private collection. He claims he couldn’t legally release the recordings. He ultimately recorded himself playing the album.
After being arrested, charged and convicted of securities fraud in 2018, the ruling ordered Shkreli to forfeit all valuable assets “in order to fulfill a $7.36 million forfeiture judgment,” according to Pitchfork. This included the highly valuable LP by the hip hop group and a unique copy of Lil Wayne’s unfinished and never released album Tha Carter V. The albums then became government property and the fate of these ultra rare albums were unknown.
Now, 3 years after the court ruling, the government sold Once Upon A Time In Shaolin for an undisclosed amount of money to an anonymous buyer. Pitchfork explains that this was part of the contract with the buyer, that no specifics will be released.
Before his sentencing, the disgraced drug executive planned on selling the album himself and Wu Tang’s leader RZA actually planned on buying it once it would eBay, but a contract made during the initial sale prohibited the rapper from doing so.
RZA said in a 2015 statement, “The sale of ‘Once Upon a Time in Shaolin’ was agreed upon in May, well before Martin Shkreli’s [sic] business practices came to light. We decided to give a significant portion of the proceeds to charity.” He also compares the album sale with the sale of a Picasso painting, while they might be copies of the painting, this one person will always have the true original, which is also the case with the album.
Photo Credit: Marv Watson