Martin Shkreli, a 32-year-old entrepreneur from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, is a figure who has become synonymous with capitalistic greed. His story is deeply embedded in the culture of Wall Street Bets, a forum known for its high-risk, high-reward trading strategies. His story would peak with Vanity Fair dubbing him “The Most Hated Man in America”
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Born on March 17th, 1983, in Coney Island Hospital, Brooklyn, Shkreli was raised in a lower-class family. His parents, Albanian and Croatian immigrants, worked as janitors to support their humble lifestyle. While other kids were interested in baseball, Shkreli was reading about the stock market and learning about publicly traded companies. He began buying shares of stock in his early teens, with his first investments being in the computer company Compaq and later in Amazon’s IPO.
Shkreli’s fascination with the stock market grew as he got older. At the age of just 16, he dropped out of high school to pursue a career on Wall Street, landing an internship at Kramer Berkowitz Co. At 18, he ran into his first bit of controversy when the fund he was working for took one of his recommendations to short sell Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. The SEC investigated Shkreli, but they were unable to prove any wrongdoing on his part.
In 2006, Shkreli started his first hedge fund, Elea Capital Management. However, the fund faced a lawsuit from Lehman Brothers after failing to cover a trade betting against the market. Lehman won the lawsuit, but collapsed before they could collect the settlement. In 2009, Shkreli founded his second hedge fund, MSMB Capital Management.
Shkreli’s strategy was to find volatile biotech companies with inflated share prices due to claims of miracle cures, short them, and then profit when the FDA debunked the claims and the stock tanked. For a while, it worked. Shkreli was making Wall Street Bets level returns, managing tens of millions of dollars. But like everything in the stock market, it worked until it didn’t.
In 2011, Shkreli founded a pharmaceutical company called Retrophin, under the umbrella of MSMB. That same month, one of MSMB’s short positions imploded, leaving the fund with a seven million dollar debt to Merrill Lynch. Instead of notifying MSMB’s investors of the loss, Shkreli repaid them with Retrophin stock and continued to send out shareholder letters as if nothing had happened. This was fraud, and it led to Shkreli’s second run-in with the feds.
In 2015, Shkreli founded Turing Pharmaceuticals. Turing’s business strategy was to buy the rights to drugs that were no longer protected by patents but had no generic versions due to low demand. Turing then jacked up the prices of these drugs. They bought Daraprim, a drug used to treat toxoplasmosis and prevent other kinds of infections most commonly in AIDS patients, and increased the price from $13.50 to $750 per pill overnight. This move sparked outrage and earned Shkreli the title of “the most hated man in America.”
Despite the backlash, Shkreli remained unapologetic. He argued that the price increase was necessary to fund research into better drugs. He claimed that if a patient couldn’t afford the treatment, the company would provide the drug for free. However, these explanations did little to change public opinion.
Shkreli’s connection to Wall Street Bets began in earnest in 2015. He was a valuable member of the community, providing high-level biotech stock analysis and teaching viewers about investing and chemistry through his Twitch streams. However, his unapologetic attitude and risky trading strategies also made him a meme within the community.
In 2017, Shkreli was found guilty on two counts of securities fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud. His bail was revoked after he made a Facebook post offering a $5,000 reward for a strand of Hillary Clinton’s hair, which was perceived as a solicitation of assault. Shkreli was sentenced to seven years in federal prison.
Even from prison, Shkreli’s influence on Wall Street Bets remains strong. His story serves as a cautionary tale about the perils of high-risk trading, but it also embodies the spirit of Wall Street Bets. Shkreli’s love for risk-taking, his unapologetic attitude, and his ability to bounce back from setbacks have made him a legend in the community.
Martin Shkreli’s story is a testament to the highs and lows of Wall Street trading. His tale serves as a reminder of the risks involved in high-stakes trading and the potential consequences of fraudulent behavior. However, his unapologetic attitude, his willingness to take risks, and his ability to bounce back from setbacks have made him a legend in the Wall Street Bets community. His story is not over yet, and it will be interesting to see what the future holds for him.