What kind of a CEO answers critics on Twitter with Eminem lyrics?
If you guessed, “the kind who would buy a patent for a 62-year-old drug and hike its price 4,000 percent,” you’re absolutely right – meet Martin Shkreli.
Shkreli, 32, landed in the hot seat this week when news broke that his company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, purchased the rights to the drug Daraprim, used to treat the parasitic infection toxoplasmosis (HIV and AIDS patients are especially susceptible). The company that had previously held the rights to the drug was selling it at $18 a pill; Turing changed the price to $750.
Shkreli did himself no favors by responding to the negative backlash on Twitter by tweeting snippets of Eminem’s more defiant lyrics, insulting journalists and quipping “Ambien,” when people asked him how he slept at night.
Hillary Clinton even joined in on the conversation, calling the price increase “outrageous.”
Markedly more subdued in press interviews Monday and Tuesday, Shkreli remained defiant: When CNBC asked him if he felt badly about what was happening, he responded simply, “No.” He added the company had no plans to reverse the pricing decision.
“Any company selling it [at its old price point] would be losing money,” he told CBS Monday. “At this price it’s a reasonable profit, not excessive at all. “I can see how it looks greedy, but I think there’s a lot of altruistic properties to it,” he continued. “With these new profits,” he explained, “we can spend all of that upside on these patients who sorely need a new drug, in my opinion.”
Shkreli’s past is checkered. As a 17-year-old intern for Mad Money‘s Jim Cramer, he was investigated by the SEC over inside trading allegations, though the agency found nothing amiss. Shkreli started his own hedge fund at the age of 20 and become notorious for shorting – betting a company’s stock will drop – biotech companies while simultaneously trashing the companies on a stock-gossip web site, according to Bloomberg.
Shkreli started his own biotech company, Retrophin, in 2011. In 2014, he was booted by the company, alleging unethical conduct between Shkreli’s dealings with Retrophin and his hedge fund MSMB Capital Management. They took things one step further last month, suing him for over $65 million, essentially alleging that he used Retrophin as a piggy bank to bail out an insolvent MSMB, Forbes reported.
On the lighter side, however, Shkreli described himself as “endlessly entertaining,” on his now-deleted OkCupid page, adding that he “[provides] comedic relief and artistic thought in one convenient package.”
Under the site’s prompt, “I spend a lot of time thinking about,” Shkreli was considerably more succinct: “Human suffering” was his top answer.