Even though only a handful of people have ever heard songs off of the Wu-Tang Clan’s seventh studio album, there are two things that cemented the story of Once Upon A Time in Shaolin in pop culture history: first, only a single copy of the album exists, kept in a silver box, only to be presented in small listening parties; and second, it was purchased at auction by former hedge fund and pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli just months before he became better known to the public as “Pharma Bro.”
Now, years after Shkreli forfeited the album following his 2017 conviction on multiple counts of securities fraud, federal prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York announced the album has once again changed hands. However, it’s unclear if it is still subject to the previous conditions, or if the public will get to hear it. Confidentiality provisions prevent the government from identifying the new buyer.
“Through the diligent and persistent efforts of this Office and its law enforcement partners, Shkreli has been held accountable and paid the price for lying and stealing from investors to enrich himself. With today’s sale of this one-of-a-kind album, his payment of the forfeiture is now complete,” Acting U.S. Attorney Jacquelyn M. Kasulis said in a statement.
The album was first announced back in 2014 as an art object, and a commentary on the state of the music streaming industry. According to Bloomberg, the members of the Wu-Tang Clan barred the owner from releasing it commercially for 88 years, but could otherwise do whatever they wanted with it, including release it for free or even destroy it.
The 31-track Wu-Tang Clan album—presented in its hand-carved box along with a 174-page leather-bound manuscript “printed on gilded Fedrigoni Marina parchment”—sold at auction in 2015 for $2 million to an anonymous buyer, who later revealed himself to be Shkreli. Between the sale and his announcement, Shkreli became infamous for raising the price of Daraprim, an anti-parasitic drug, from about $13.50 to about $750 a pill.
Shkreli reportedly played portions of the album for reporters and livestreamed samples of it on YouTube, but never released it publicly. At one point, he tried to sell the album on eBay, but soon after he surrendered it to federal authorities along with other assets following his conviction in 2017.
His attorney, Brianne E. Murphy, told Gothamist/WNYC on Tuesday evening that Shkreli was “please with the sale price, and RIP ODB.”
Murphy had noted the sale had cleared the remaining balance of his $7.4 million forfeiture.
This story has been updated to include a comment from Shkreli.