Aug 9, 2022 • 10M

Chapter 6, Part 1: Playing chess with “J.P. Morgan”

This is Chapter 6, Part 1 of SMIRK, a serialized memoir of my relationship with “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli.

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Appears in this episode

Christie Smythe
My experiences uncovering the story of, and falling in love with, Martin Shkreli.
Episode details
An illustration of chess pieces.
An illustration of chess pieces.

One of the first people I spoke to when I began working on a book about Martin Shkreli, to try to get a sense of how his meteoric trajectory had started, was a silver-haired stock broker named “Roger,”  who worked for a well-known investment bank. 

Ok, to be clear, “Roger” is definitely not his real name. Like many “respectable” people in Martin’s circle, he was fearful of possible blowback resulting from clients or his employer knowing about his connection to the infamous drug company founder. “I can’t be associated with the Martins of the world,” he told me right off the bat.

This was a constant problem I faced when trying to gather an accurate portrait of Martin: The only people who seemed eager to go on record about him had axes to grind. Everyone else took a lot of cajoling. Anyway, that’s why I agreed to use a pseudonym for Roger.

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Martin introduced me to Roger in May 2017, a pleasant and lightly-paunchy middle-aged white man, during a small happy hour gathering at the former Gansevoort Hotel, on Park Avenue. Martin had sort of randomly invited me there in order for me to get acquainted with some of his professional associates (or to show off the fact that there was a journalist now following him around, working on a book about him, maybe). He told me very little about Roger, only that he had served as his broker years ago and was an old friend.

I took Roger’s card, and followed up several weeks later, scheduling a time to interview him alone without Martin present. We met at his office in Midtown, and I recorded the conversation. Curiously, Roger’s impressions…

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