Health and Science

Martin Shkreli blocks media on Twitter, but embraces musical satire about him

Shkreli blocks media on Twitter

A thin-skinned Martin Shkreli is taking his Twitter from the media and going home — but he's still got a sense of humor when it comes to an upcoming satirical musical about one of his many stunts.

The notorious pharma bro Shkreli, who is facing serious federal securities fraud charges, began blocking reporters who followed him on Twitter in recent days on the heels of his most recent court hearing. Shkreli sniffed that reporters weren't covering him "responsibly."

The media blocked from viewing Shkreli's free-wheeling Twitter stream included this reporter and other journalists at CNBC.

Shkreli previously had reveled in engaging in back and forth with reporters on Twitter, as he did on Friday when he tweeted "when I see you, imma slap you" at one Bloomberg journalist who dared to ask him for comment on a new criminal count that prosecutors lodged against him that day.

On Wednesday, the same day he announced his media ban, Shkreli addressed news of a new musical about the oft-ousted pharmaceutical CEO that is set to premiere next month in New York City, entitled: "Martin Shkreli's Game: How Bill Murray Joined the Wu-Tang Clan."

It satirically combines Shkreli's actual purchase, for $2 million, of a single-copy Wu-Tang Clan album and the bogus internet theory that "Caddyshack" star Murray was somehow legally empowered to steal back the hip-hop album, which Shkreli has in real life resolutely refused to share with other Wu-Tang fans.

When CNBC asked Shkreli's criminal defense lawyer Benjamin Brafman on Wednesday about the show after The New York Post broke the story, the attorney was dismissive, saying, "Martin and his lawyers intend to ignore this childish, absurd project."

But hours later, Shkreli began not-ignoring the musical on Twitter.

Joel Esher, the musical's composer, told CNBC on Thursday that Shkreli did a live-stream broadcast on the internet Wednesday night where "he was inviting people to ask questions about the musical," and was "saying, 'Did you hear I was going to star in a musical?' "

Esher said he had asked Shkreli last week during another live stream how he would feel if someone wrote a musical about him.

"I wouldn't care," Shkreli replied, according to Esher.

Esher's collaborator in the show, lyricist Lauren Gundrum, said she and Esher first became aware of Shkreli, as did much of the rest of America, last fall.

That's when Shkreli's company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, raised the price of its antiparasitic drug Daraprim by more than 5,000 percent, from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill. Shkreli refused to lower that retail price despite the public outrage that it fueled, in part, due to the fact that many Daraprim-using patients are pregnant women, babies or people with HIV.

"Then he was in the news a little bit," Gundrum said, with some understatement.

But the pair's interest in Shkreli spiked when they heard that he had laid out $2 million to buy the Wu-Tang album "Once Upon a Time in Shaolin," and wouldn't let anyone hear the whole record.

"We were like, 'Who is this guy?'" Gundrum said.

Martin Shkreli, former chief executive officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals and KaloBios Pharmaceuticals Inc, arrives at a U.S. Federal Court in New York, June 6, 2016.
Lucas Jackson | Reuters

Since then, Shkreli has gained even more notoriety after being indicted by a federal grand jury in Brooklyn on charges that he looted another pharma company he previously ran, Retrophin, out of $11 million as part of a scheme to pay back investors he was suspected of defrauding at hedge funds he had operated. Shkreli has pleaded not guilty in the case, and remains free on $5 million bond.

She said Shkreli is a compelling lead character for a musical.

"He's been characterized as one of America's true villains... [and] he's kind of embraced that," Gundrum said. "He is a clearly a very intelligent person. He's very calculating and deliberate about what he does."

Gundrum and Esher said they are in the midst of auditioning actors for the show, and getting money for the production costs via an Indiegogo fundraiser, which as of Thursday had garnered nearly $1,400 from 20 contributors toward their goal of $6,500.

"Wu-Tang Clan members RZA, GZA, and Ghostface Killah are teaming up with Bill Murray to take down Martin Shkreli. But they need your help," the fundraising page says.

The musical is set to premiere at the Midtown International Theater festival on July 19, five days after Shkreli's next scheduled appearance in Brooklyn federal court.

"I tweeted at him offering comped tickets," Gundrum said. "We'll see if he takes that up."