Made for TV: Shkreli running his drug company from prison cell, WSJ says

Martin Shkreli has dominated headlines for years, and he's not done. (House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform)

If you thought the Martin Shkreli saga was over now that he's serving a federal prison term, think again. In a bizarre tale that could be straight out of the TV show “Arrested Development,” the Wall Street Journal reported that the disgraced “pharma bro” is calling the shots at his company out of a prison cell in Fort Dix, New Jersey. 

Shkreli, who became the “most hated” man in America after raising the price of the toxoplasmosis drug Daraprim by 5,000% overnight at Turing Pharmaceuticals, is serving seven years in prison related to his time at another drugmaker, Retrophin. After Turing ran into high-profile pushback and public scrutiny for its price hike, the company changed its name twice to end up as Phoenixus, WSJ reports in a story full of colorful details and trademark Shkreli chatter. 

From prison with a contraband cellphone, Shkreli has been calling shots at Phoenixus, according to the newspaper. Shkreli even moved to fire the company’s new CEO after he asked for a significant pay raise, but later agreed to suspend the executive instead—all from his prison headquarters. 

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That sort of activity could put Shkreli in big trouble, and the Journal reports the FBI is looking into the former executive's contacts with the company.

RELATED: Pharma bro Martin Shkreli convicted of securities fraud 

A Phoenixus board member told the Journal, however, that Shkreli is “treated like any other shareholder.” It’s “widely known” Shkreli has a cellphone at Fort Dix, he added. The board member said Phoenixus communicated with Shkreli’s lawyers on business matters, rather than Shkreli himself.

Shkreli has held a 40% share of the company, according to the WSJ; together with loyalists, he has enough voting power to control decisionmaking. He's even worked from his cell to buy shares from other investors, according to the report. 

Don’t count out behind-bars dealmaking, either. The newspaper reports Shkreli has recently managed deals for Phoenixus, including a research pact and a separate licensing deal.

Naturally, some investors aren’t fond of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering, according to the newspaper. Bertrand des Pallieres, who invested in Turing early on, is working to round up a group of investors to push for more transparency and for a sale, according to the paper. Shkreli reportedly shot down two earlier offers for the company, WSJ reports.

Meanwhile, Shkreli owes the government millions and may be forced to sell some of his stake in Phoenixus, which would diminish his power at the company, according to the Journal. Retrophin is also suing Shkreli, the Journal reports. 

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