With the arrest of “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli on charges of securities fraud Thursday morning, fans of the Wu-Tang Clan around the world wondered if the rap supergroup’s album, “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin,” is up for grabs again.
Last week, Bloomberg Businessweek revealed that the 32-year-old Turing Pharmaceuticals executive, who is famous for price-gauging life-saving drugs, purchased the only known copy of Wu-Tang Clan’s latest album for $2 million. Once the news broke that he was the singular owner of a Wu-Tang exclusive, Shkreli took to Twitter to boast about his new purchase.
According to the indictment, Shkreli was not arrested for the price-gauging, but for illegally taking assets from biotech firm Retrophin Inc.
“Federal prosecutors accuse Shkreli of engaging in a complicated shell game after a hedge fund he started lost millions. He is alleged to have made secret payoffs and set up sham consulting arrangements,” Businessweek reported.
Shkreli’s arrest could mean that the public has access to the album. The FBI confirmed via Twitter, however, that the agency had not seized the album during Thursday’s arrest.
#Breaking no seizure warrant at the arrest of Martin Shkreli today, which means we didn't seize the Wu-Tang Clan album.
— FBI New York (@NewYorkFBI) December 17, 2015
The Atlantic walked through the various ways Shkreli could lose the record. Forfeiture expert Steven L. Kessler told The Atlantic, for example, that if the government secured a conviction, Shkreli would have to forfeit assets, possibly including the album.
But how did Shkreli get the most exclusive rap album ever made?
RZA, the de facto frontman of the Wu-Tang Clan, reunited past and present members to come together and produce “Shaolin.” The catch was there would only ever be one copy. The idea was to auction off the album, with no digital copy available for streaming, and it will be given to the highest bidder.
The move crazed the art world. The Museum of Modern Art in New York even hosted a listening party in March for potential buyers. Initially, the group thought to forbid the owner from publicly listening to the album for 88 years, but eventually granted the buyer total freedom as long as he or she didn’t sell it commercially. The group then hired Paddle8, an online auction startup, to sell the album.
Enter Martin Shkreli.
After outbidding private collectors, trophy hunters and millionaires, Shkreli became the proud owner of 31-track album that was housed in a hand-carved box and accompanied with a leather bound, 174-paged book filled with liner notes.
A joke clause in the contract circulated last week on Twitter reading that Wu-Tang members and Bill Murray can “heist or caper to steal back” the album.
Forget the $2M, this is easily the most interesting part of the whole deal between Wu-Tang and Martin Shkreli. pic.twitter.com/5nSshXhjnJ
— Rob Wesley (@eastwes) December 9, 2015