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‘Pharma Bro’ Martin Shkreli Is Not Launching a DEX—But Says He's Working on Blockchain Software


Martin Shkreli refuted a press release claiming he was launching a DEX to compete with Uniswap—but says he's working on something else in crypto.

By Tim Hakki, Stacy Elliott and Daniel Roberts

4 min read

Martin Shkreli in 2016. Image: NBC News/YouTube

Editor's note: This story from June 16 was updated after an interview on June 17 with Martin Shkreli. 

The controversial convicted felon Martin Shkreli tells Decrypt he is not launching a decentralized exchange (DEX) called Albumswap, despite a press release on Thursday announcing he was. Decrypt covered the false press release initially, and regrets the error. 

According to the press release, which Decrypt will not link to for the safety of our readers, Albumswap was Shkreli's answer to Uniswap—a plausible scenario given that Shkreli has been publicly feuding with Uniswap founder Hayden Adams on Twitter. 

The press release linked to a web site for Albumswap that linked to a smart contract that has had about $1,400 worth of ETH sent to it.

It's unclear who was behind the fake press release. Decrypt reached out to GlobeNewsWire, the pay-to-post press release network that hosted it, and GNW says it is looking into the matter. But a Twitter account (@AnonShkreli) that tweeted a link to the Albumswap page on Thursday, and claimed Shkreli would be discussing Albumswap in a Twitter Spaces with crypto podcast host Cobie, has since deleted the tweet.

Deleted June 17, 2022 tweet by a fake Martin Shkreli account.

On a Friday afternoon video call with Decrypt, Shkreli guessed that a scammer was behind the press release. "Obviously there's a lot of incentive, especially if you're in a part of the world where something like $5,000 can be a huge amount of money," he said. "You may put something out there just to get a quick cash grab. This person is probably somebody who will put out something like an Anna Delvey one, or whoever is in the news today or tomorrow."

Martin Shkreli spoke to Decrypt's Dan Roberts on video on June 17.

Shkreli and Uniswap

Shkreli jumped on a Twitter Space in May immediately after his release from prison and said he got into crypto via Uniswap during his time behind bars. He also claimed that he received unspecified perks in prison in exchange for giving prison guards advice about Bitcoin

Shortly after Shkreli’s Twitter Spaces appearance, Uniswap founder Hayden Adams tweeted: “Will Shkreli still like Uniswap when he learns I listened to that Wu-Tang album he bought more recently than him?” 

Adams was referring to Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, an unreleased one-of-one record that Shkreli purchased in 2015 for $2 million, before squirreling it away from the public. The physical album was later seized by the U.S. government as a forfeiture and sold to an unknown buyer for an undisclosed sum. Last year, Ethereum art collective PleasrDAO bought the album for $4 million

Adams’s tweet about the album hit a nerve with Shkreli. "I was really ticked off," he told Decrypt. "He sort of mocked me... That was weird, because the whole point of this community is you can dislike somebody, but you made a tool like Uniswap and then you're getting mad someone used it? That's kind of against the whole decentralized thesis and ethos. This tool is almost meant to be used by outcasts."

Shkreli went on to say he sees major potential for the use of blockchain and decentralized computing in the pharmaceutical industry, and is working on a new software product in that area. He was hesitant to share further details.

As for what's in his crypto bags, Shkreli says he owns "a smattering of different coins" that are "tied to some physical reality or financial reality. So anything stable, or asset-backed, is exciting to me." He is extremely bullish on stablecoins—though not algorithmic stablecoins like Terra. "I think stablecoins have been proven, probably more than Bitcoin and Ethereum."

He also owns a handful of NFTs, including a Milady NFT. Is a Martin Shkreli NFT inevitable? "I think NFTs are fun, they're interesting, but most of the time they're kind of a joke," he said. "I don't see myself doing an NFT unless it was really unique and really different. It would be not for financial reasons, but more for social or humorous reasons."

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