Martin Shkreli Uses a Contraband Cell Phone to Run His Old Company From Behind Bars

headshot of Martin Shkreli

JStone /

Martin Shkreli may be behind bars, but that doesn’t mean he does not take a direct hand in running Turing Pharmaceuticals, the company that has been redubbed Phoenixus AG.

On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Shkreli is still very much involved in the leadership of the company he founded. Using a contraband cellular phone, Shkreli still calls the shots at the company, the Journal said. Just recently, he used the phone to terminate the chief executive officer who had been running the company in his absence.

The Journal reported that Shkreli’s involvement with Phoenixus, the company that rebranded itself from Turing and then to Vyera following his rise to infamy and subsequent prison sentence, could get him in trouble with the federal government. According to the report, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been looking into his alleged involvement with the leadership of the company. According to prison guidelines, it is a violation of federal regulations to run a business from behind bars.

For the disgraced Shkreli, he has big plans for Phoenixus and will take advantage of them when he emerges from prison in less than 1,000 days. Like the mythical bird for which the company took its name, Shkreli believes he will be far wealthier due to his machinations with the company than when he entered prison. According to the Journal, Shkreli plans to continue to direct the company to acquire more rare drugs in various stages of development and also undertake “an ambitious research-and-development agenda.”

While Phoenixus executives did not respond to the Journal, one board member, Akeel Mithani, told the paper that Shkreli is treated like any other shareholder in the company. However, as the Journal reported, from behind bars Shkreli has been instrumental in guiding the governance of the company and ensuring that board members who are loyal to him are in control.

Those plans though have not been met with great fanfare from some investors, the Journal said. There are questions from among those who have invested in the Switzerland-based Phoenixus that suggest they believe Shkreli will try to “enrich himself by seizing control of the cash-rich company through complicated financial transactions.” Other investors have questioned the veracity of information provided to them by the company, the Journal said.

Being behind bars has not kept Shkreli from the limelight. He has used a personal website to share his views on many topics. He did not leave the Journal’s report untouched. Although Shkreli’s blog post was short, he posed the question “Who talked to the Jake?,” meaning who told the Journal about his use of a contraband phone.

Shkreli has used the blog to share his thoughts on the pharmaceutical industry, including the recent approval of Johnson & Johnson’s esketamine-based treatment for Major Depressive Disorder. In his post, Shkreli questioned the moderate price tag of $750 per dose for the treatment. He noted on his blog that people suffering from depression have difficulty getting out of bed at times and may not head to the doctor’s office as often as needed to receive the treatment.

“In the real world, ketamine is dosed as needed and not on a fixed schedule. Could break $1 billion if it gains massive adoption, which seems unlikely. J&J is usually very good at launches but flops happen (Invokana, Intelence),” Shkreli said.

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