It’s Pharma Bro vs the World’s Richest Man.
Martin Shkreli, who spent four and a half years in federal prison for securities fraud and gained infamy for alleged price gauging of a life-saving drug, says he’s been lobbying Elon Musk through mutual friends to give him something he believes he needs in his post-prison future: Access to his original X (formerly Twitter) account.
Shkreli tells FOX Business that since he was released from prison in May 2022, he’s been trying without success to regain access to his old account, which amassed over 250,000 followers before getting suspended in 2015 over what he describes as a “silly mistake” — an online feud with a journalist that led to his ban.
Moreover, Shkreli says he has been forced to create as many as 20 new accounts to remain active on the platform. He says they are constantly getting shut down by X management, including “over a dozen times” since Musk bought the platform in October of last year and took it private in a $44 billion deal.
Shkreli says Musk’s actions don’t square with the Tesla chief’s free speech mantra and his self-proclaimed reputation as a First Amendment absolutist. Shkreli points out that other controversial personalities banned from the platform, such as far-right political activist Laura Loomer, and the volatile rapper Kanye West, aka Ye, have regained access to their accounts through Musk.
“Elon preaches free speech, but his actions are showing the opposite,” Shkreli said. “He’s now got a woman from NBC running the show (new X CEO Linda Yacarino), so he may now be putting profits over principle.”
He says he needs an active X account to keep him connected to top tech CEOs and investors while he embarks on a new entrepreneurial venture involving Artificial Intelligence or AI. He hasn’t heard from Musk despite multiple attempts at outreach, including lobbying mutual friends and celebrities who know both men.
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He said he reached out to Elon Musk’s former girlfriend, singer Grimes, to plead his case. He later posted that he would pay someone $10,000 to get his ban reversed. In an August 22 tweet, Grimes said she would intervene with Musk if Shkreli promises to be more ethical.
It’s unclear if she has done so; Grimes couldn’t be reached for comment. Musk also could not be reached for comment.
Shkreli has several theories about why Musk is giving him the cold shoulder. While running three former hedge funds, he was an active short seller, a trading technique that makes money when a stock falls in value. Musk has spent years sparring with short sellers betting on the demise of Tesla.
Shkreli also points to Musk’s urgencies for putting a pause on the development of AI, where computers perform tasks normally reserved for humans, to avoid what he’s described as “risks to society.”
But most of all, he believes Musk is simply jealous of his machismo. “I was told by someone close to Musk that he doesn’t like other alpha males in the room,” he said.
The Shkreli-Musk throw down isn’t physical, at least not yet. Musk, at 6’2’’ weighs around 200 pounds and is worth $255 billion. He is known for a volatile management style while running the iconic EV company Tesla and now X. He’s often picking feuds on social media with various public figures he sees as competitors.
He recently challenged fellow billionaire and the world’s ninth-richest person, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, to an MMA-style cage match fight. The two have been trading barbs on social media and no date has been set.
Zuckerberg, who regularly trains at the martial art Jiu Jitsu, and is worth $105 billion, says Musk is all talk and no action. As he posted on his Threads social media account: “I love this sport and I’ve been ready to fight since the day Elon challenged me; if he ever agrees on an actual date, you will hear it from me.”
Shkreli, 5’9 and 155 pounds, of course, is not known for his physical attributes, but for the stuff that got him put away. He served over 4 years of an original seven-year sentence in three separate federal prisons for securities fraud including New York’s Metropolitan Detention Center where alleged crypto fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried is awaiting his October trial. He tells Fox Business that he has some tips on how SBF can survive in the infamous facility located in Brooklyn. “He needs to make friends with some of my Latino gang boss friends,” he said, without elaboration.
Shkreli, however, was never charged for the deed he is perhaps most infamous for: Jacking up the price of the drug Daraprim, used to treat parasitic infections. He raised the price of the pill 5,455% to $750 a pill from $13.50, and in doing so, becoming the poster boy for greed in the pharmaceutical business. The controversy surrounding the pricing earned Shkreli notoriety and the moniker “Pharma Bro.” Shkreli doesn’t seem embarrassed by any of it. “The price (of a drug) should be whatever the company wants it to be…people think medicine grows on trees,” he added.
Since leaving prison, Shkreli is by no means slumming it. He currently resides in a pent house in Queens, NY, as he is not allowed to live in Manhattan as part of his parole conditions. He said he wants nothing do with pharma or hedge funds and says he’s plotting his future as an entrepreneur focused on AI.
He created his own virtual healthcare assistant called DrGupta.ai, which he says will help revolutionize the medical field by eliminating costly physicians and replacing them with bots that could handle routine medical questions and procedures.
“Physicians are the biggest cost to our healthcare system,” he told Fox Business. “AI should be able to handle more mundane requests” in a cost-efficient way.
When he’s not planning his business comeback, and trying to get Musk’s attention, Shkreli says he follows politics, including the presidential race and is a big supporter of Donald Trump, who is seeking the GOP nomination amid multiple criminal indictments. He says he’s also friends with budding GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy who was an investor in Shkreli’s former pharmaceutical company Retrophin, now called Travere Therapeutics. Ramaswamy didn’t immediately return a call for comment; Shkreli described him as “my biggest investor.”
“From my experience, it’s clear that the government’s legal apparatus is appropriated by whatever motivates the individuals in power, and not by upholding the law,” he said about Trump’s legal entanglements. “What they’re doing to Trump is disgusting.”
As for his problems with Twitter, Shkreli traces them to sometime around 2017 when he got into a tussle with a former journalist name Lauren Duca. The exact nature of the offending posts could not be completely determined because the account is suspended. But according to a 2017 CNBC report, Shkreli took to a Facebook Live stream around this time and made sexually explicit comments regarding Duca.
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Shrekli, for his part, says he made several tongue-in-cheek tweets, calling it a “teasing war” where he photo-shopped photos of himself alongside Duca, and asked her to attend the 2017 inauguration of Donald Trump as his date, to which Duca declined.
Following his ban, Shkreli says he as able to access the platform using burner accounts even while in jail, using what he described as a “contraband phone.”
Duca did not immediately return calls and emails for comment. In a July 20, 2023, posting on X, Duca said: “Tbh I wish Twitter would have banned me instead of Martin.”
Upon leaving prison last May, Shkreli shared a selfie on Facebook with the caption, “getting out of real prison is easier than getting out of Twitter prison.”
His frustration continues.
“Musk has been a savior for people like Kanye and Laura Loomer, but I guess free speech isn’t so free for me.”