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U.S. sells one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang album to cover Martin Shkreli's debt
A photo provided by the U.S. Marshals Service shows the box containing the one-of-a-kind album recorded by the Wu-Tang Clan and sold at auction to the disgraced pharmaceutical executive and hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli. The album has been purchased by an anonymous buyer for an undisclosed sum of money, the federal prosecutors who seized the album three years ago said on Tuesday, July 27, 2021. United States Marshals Service via The New York Times.

by Jonah E. Bromwich

NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- A one-of-a-kind album recorded by the Wu-Tang Clan and sold at auction to the disgraced pharmaceutical executive and hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli has been purchased by an anonymous buyer for an undisclosed sum of money, the federal prosecutors who seized the album three years ago said.

Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, announced the sale of the one known copy of the album, “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin,” in a news release Tuesday. The terms of the sale required the government to keep the purchase price and the buyer secret, but the sale satisfied the balance that Shkreli had owed the government, according to the news release. The buyer was a group of people or a company, rather than an individual, according to a person with knowledge of the sale.

The unique album — more akin to a piece of fine art than a standard record — was seized by the government in 2018 after a judge said that it could be used to pay part of the $7.36 million that Shkreli owed.

Shkreli’s lawyer, Brianne E. Murphy, said she had no information about the buyer, but said that she was happy that Shkreli had satisfied his forfeiture balance and was “closing this chapter.”

In April, a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn said in a court filing that Shkreli still owed the government $2.2 million. Murphy said Tuesday that Shkreli having paid the remainder of his balance indicated that the album had sold for $2.2 million or more. She added that she had no knowledge of the actual sale price.

Later on Tuesday, Murphy said she had spoken to Shkreli, who said he was “pleased with the sale price and RIP O.D.B.”

The buyer was represented by Peter Scoolidge, a lawyer who has represented several artists in cases related to the album over the years. Scoolidge said in a statement that it was “the most interesting deal I have ever worked on.”

In a brief interview, Scoolidge added that the buyer, whose identity he declined to reveal, would be bound by the restrictions in the original contract, which bar the record owner or owners from releasing it commercially for 88 years.

Scoolidge said that he had inspected the album as part of the arrangement. Asked what he thought of it, he said, “It’s a banger, man. It’s a banger.”

Shkreli became famous in 2015, when he boosted the price of a drug used to treat a rare disease by 5,000% overnight through his company, Turing Pharmaceuticals. The drug, Daraprim, was used to treat a life-threatening parasitic infection; the company’s actions brought the cost of treatment annually for some patients up to hundreds of thousands of dollars, and cast a spotlight on price hikes being made on generic drugs.

Instead of recoiling from the negative attention he received after the price hike, Shkreli leaned into it, drawing near-universal opprobrium. (Donald Trump, then a presidential candidate, said, “He looks like a spoiled brat to me.”)

In December of that year, Bloomberg Business reported that Shkreli had purchased the sought-after album at auction for $2 million.

The album, the hype around which in some ways presaged the current craze for nonfungible tokens or NFTs, was made on the premise that it would only be sold to one bidder.

In purchasing the album, the buyer gained control over a record by one of the most well-regarded rap groups in the history of the genre. (The band’s loyal fans often insist that the album is not really an unheard Wu-Tang album but rather a compilation made by a little-known producer, Cilvaringz.)

In 2017, Shkreli was convicted of fraud in connection with two hedge funds he ran, MSMB Capital and MSMB Healthcare, as well as conspiracy to commit securities fraud. The following year, he was sentenced to seven years in prison.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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