Pharma Bro is holding the world’s most expensive Wu-Tang Clan album for ransom.
Martin Shkreli, an infamous pharmaceuticals entrepreneur and convicted criminal dubbed Pharma Bro, purportedly put the one and only copy of the Wu-Tang Clan’s “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” for auction on eBay on Tuesday. He listed the rap album, which he purchased for $2 million in 2015, for just $1 and bidding has already risen above $200,000. The auction is set to end in nine days.
But, like with many things in the brash world of Pharma Bro, things aren’t entirely as they seem. Shkreli says in the item description that he may cancel the listing at any time and “I may even break this album in frustration,” without further explanation.
Shkreli adds that he isn’t listing the album to raise money, saying he and his companies “have record amounts of cash on hand.” Instead, the listing seems to serve as a dare or test to others, stating: “I will be curious to see if the world values music nearly as much as I have.”
It’s unclear whether Shkreli is listing the album as a plea to be better understood as a genuine patron of musicians or is attempting a publicity stunt. It’s not even clear whether eBay will allow the listing to stay live, since Shkreli hasn’t actually committed to sell the album.
eBay representatives didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment to verify the legitimacy of the listing.
Shkreli rose to infamy in 2015 for jacking up the price on his company’s AIDS drug Daraprim by 5,000 percent. Months after a public firestorm began over the price hike, news came out that Shkreli was also the winning bidder of the one and only “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.”
He was arrested and charged with securities fraud for his role managing two hedge funds and last month was convicted of three out of eight charges, including two counts of securities fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud. He hasn’t been sentenced yet, but he’s already said publicly he doesn’t believe he’ll be heading to jail.
Of the album’s initial sale two years ago, Wu-Tang member Robert “RZA” Diggs in 2015 told Forbes, “We’re making a single-sale collector’s item. This is like somebody having the scepter of an Egyptian king.”
The album included a hand-carved box, as well as a leather-bound book with 174 pages of lyrics and information about the songs.
Shkreli, who said he’ll give half the proceeds from the sale to medical research, added that he hasn’t “carefully listened to the album.” When asked in a Q&A section of the listing what that meant, he explained: “I put it on ‘in the background’ when some friends were over. No one was paying attention.”
The Smartest Stuff: Innovators are thinking up new ways to make you, and the things around you, smarter.
iHate: CNET looks at how intolerance is taking over the internet