Westport’s Porn King Defends America’s Loathsome Drug Baron

“06880” is fascinated by Mike Kulich.

The Staples Class of 2004 graduate is the owner and CEO of one of the nation’s leading distributors of adult DVDs (aka “porn”). He’s also a 15-time nominee for industry awards. (Just like journalists, physicists and dentists, adult entertainment honors its own.)

Mike Kulich

Mike Kulich

Kulich has been mentioned on this blog several times. Most recently, it was when his company went the extra mile, sending 1 copy of every title his company ever released — they do more than 40 a month — to a man who’d lost his entire porn collection in a home robbery.

Now, Mike’s in the news again.

In an exclusive interview with Inc., he told how he reached out to Martin Shkreli.

That name may be vaguely familiar. Shkreli is probably the most hated man in America. (Except for the entire U.S. Congress.) Shkreli is the smirking, arrogant twerp who bought a drug company, then instantly jacked up the price of a malaria drug by 5000%.

According to Inc., Kulich offered public relations advice to the drug baron. The King of Porn told the Face of Everything Wrong with US Healthcare that Kulich could make him continually famous. “Like the Kardashians,” he said.

Kulich has “plenty of experience representing folks with unsavory reputations,” Inc. explained.

Martin Shkreli's 5th Amendment-invoking testimony at a Congressional hearing repulsed many Americans.

Martin Shkreli’s 5th Amendment-invoking testimony at a Congressional hearing repulsed many Americans.

The pair Skyped for a while. Kulich was drawn to the “villainized, Lex Luthor sort of celebrity.” He wanted to find out why Shkreli had done what he did.

According to Kulich, there was another side to the story. Shkreli said he was billing insurance companies $750 per pill — but giving away 60 percent of the drugs, if insurers refused to pay.

Supposedly too, the drug baron is reinvesting his sky-high profits in R&D, trying to discover new drugs.

“After getting to know Martin, I kind of see him as, you know, like the Steve Jobs of the Millennials,” Kulich said.

At first, the PR/porn guy told Shkreli: “Don’t kind of go nuts and go cowboy” with his tweets. But then his client started livestreaming his rants.

“That was kind of out the window,” Kulich told Inc.

Kulich organized a written interview — and 16-minute video — on Vice. He also shifted the national conversation from drug pricing to Shkreli’s purchase of Wu Tang’s purchase of the single copy of “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin,” for $2 million. In response, group member Ghostface Killah called Shkreli a “shithead.”

Shkreli also rode a hoverboard, holding a $15,000 bottle of wine. That too did not go over well with a lot of folks.

“He loves his hoverboard,” Kulich said in the Inc. interview. “I can’t tell him to get off.”

Shkreli’s PR rep has no formal training in the field, he admitted. But, he said, “if you can do porn PR, then you can do anything.” He enjoyed his foray into mainstream marketing.

Kulich is no longer working with Shkreli. He’s looking for new clients.

“Every few days there’s a new villain,” he noted. “People through social media just come at them with pitchforks. My job is to jump in front of the client and redirect the stampede. I think I could do it for just about anyone else.”

Anyone?

How about the entire U.S. Congress?

(Click here to read the entire Inc. story.)

27 responses to “Westport’s Porn King Defends America’s Loathsome Drug Baron

  1. Fascinating video and piece — whether you can love these guys or want to hate them — Shkreli and Kulich are millennials and they live and perceive things differently — in ways those of us who have raised them find it hard to wrap our minds around. The knee jerk reaction I could have had –of disgust – afterall, one is a porn producer, the other a thief basically stealing drugs from the those who need them most– I did not allow myself to have. I listened and read. As a parent of a millennial who is engaged to marry a millennial, I see their approach to life is out of the box consistently – they do not honor the old ways to say the least. Their views and actions are shaped by the new world they grew up in which we helped create, and they come at their lives, their work, their opinions from a new place that I don’t always understand but I end up respecting most of the time.

    The minimalist surroundings of Shkreli’s apartment are also typical of what I see in this group. They are into certain cool and many times pricey techno items, games, etc. they can’t live without ,and the rest of their surroundings are plain, simple and almost undone in comparison to how we set up our homes.

    I’m fascinated by this generation of millennials that we don’t quite understand yet or I don’t. I also employed them and found them difficult and frustrating in their refusal to follow direction, and also very helpful in their new ways of looking at and doing things – they want to be part of the conversation as to the directions they take which isn’t all bad – they don’t view authority figures that well. They aren’t lazy as they can be perceived but they’ve studied their parents and the world and have decided to check out on many of our ways and to enter by new doors. This may sound horrible but I don’t find Shkreli a monster necessarily — he was raised in Brooklyn by immigrant parents who worked as janitors to raise their family. Is he skewed from watching his parents struggle with money – I don’t know but I listened to him and as per usual with millennials, the message is from another doorway that we’ve not yet gone through. We have to go through to hear them and their full intent.

    • far as these two are concerned, i will not be going through their doorway…ever

      • I could have said that at first but I listened to the whole video and read the interviews. As I’ve said, this generation is baffling in their responses and behaviors at times but we helped shape them and we need to understand them. Or at least I need to.

        • A PS to this is: Shkreli could be considered a modern day Robin Hood fighting the large corporations/drug companies, and he will give away the expensive drugs he took control of for free to any and all who need it. He took on Walmart, large insurance companies, etc. He took away their control which I find interesting and the elites couldn’t believe that this one kid did took them all on and did it his way. So they vilified him. I’m not defending everything he has done but look at the whole picture and listen to him.

          • Jerry MacDaid

            By the way, the “Other side of the Story” works this way:

            We used to charge $10.50 per pill. Now we charge $750 per pill but that’s OK because we give 60% of the pills away. So, assuming everyone used to pay and none were previously given away (unlikely, but let’s go with it), they used to collect $1,050 per 100 pills sold. Now, they collect $30,000 ($750 X 100 X 40%) per 100 pills sold so only a 30x increase in price, not 75x and only from people stupid enough to pay. As we used to say in the hood, “mighty white of you Mr. Shrekli”.

            While some of the increased profit might go to R&D, the new “business model” is that it mostly falls to the bottom line increasing EPS and stock price providing “currency” (along with the extra cash) to go out and buy other pharma companies with underpriced drugs that they can do the same thing with. Rinse, wash, repeat, then flip company for big gain before model implodes in the face of the retail shareholders.

            As Mr. Stein noted, fundamentally not that different behavior than what ultimately brought the weight the government down on previous robber barons. Whatever you think of big Pharma, they generally weren’t stupid enough to do this sort of thing. And not necessarily a millennial thing either. More of a private equity/hedge fund thing, in this care fronted by a somewhat sketchy millennial with no filter.

            • The Inc. story creates the impression that Shrekli is exploiting market inefficiencies created by the Federal Government. Regulation of the drug industry has provided him with the opportunities to make large profits. Sometimes regulations create unintended consequences.

              • Hi Mike- a nonpartisan comment-

                “Regulation of the drug industry has provided him with the opportunities to make large profits”.

                The regulation of the drug industry providing his profits is the unintended consequences is the rule preventing competitive bidding by medicare to negotiate lower prices of drugs from big pharma! All of the push back was coming from the insurance companies- until Shkreli pulled back the curtain with his outrageous greed.The NY Times, infectious disease doctors, senate investigations and public outrage have only put Shkreli in the spotlight- I haven’t seen any movement to allow medicare to demand competitive bidding!!!

                The rest of our drug costs continue to surge unnoticed at a slightly lower outrageous level. So in this case a lack of regulation allowing competitive bidding by medicare is the reason the American public is being treated to prices for medicines that are often three or four times what it costs in Canada or Mexico.

                Would love to see the Dems and the Repubs get together here and save the American public billions and billions- real money!! Just trying to be non partisan!!

  2. Lets ignore the supposedly “interesting personality” you are trying to understand and just focus on what Shkreli actually did- whether he wears the label of Millennial or not!

    He took a perfect medicine (Daraprim)- relatively cheap at 10.50 a pill (not cheap to me if you have to buy a lot of pills), and that is incredibly effective in treating toxoplasmosis ( a killer of premature infants and people with impaired immune systems, such as AIDS patients or cancer patients on chemotherapy) and raised the price to 750 a pill. His excuse is the purported R&D he will do- but that he isn’t doing- for a better medicine- that really isn’t needed in this case! (Should there be a rule or a law that drug companies cannot raise the price of an established old line medicine more than 25% in any given year?)

    Should we also ignore that he didn’t get into legal trouble for raising the price of Daraprim- but for illegally taking money from another drug company he controlled to pay off his debts from yet another financial exploit- that is stealing from Peter to pay Paul!

    Millennials play by different rules- I don’t think so!! Whose rules do they play by? Where is it written that it is okay to cheat, lie and steal? I hope he has a good lawyer, pays his lawyer a lot and then goes to jail! That’s what I call an investment in his research and development!

    • I’m not denying his wrong behaviors but whether we like it or not, this is the next generation who will be taking care of us in old age. They will be our leaders and some of their moral compasses are vastly different in many respects from ours. Pornography is a part of many of their every day lives where we wouldn’t even consider it, and just maybe some watched their parents’ porn vhs’s when the parents were out – hence you can get porn for free on the internet and it’s just fine to them. In fact, many will tell you just that. Their responses are different and as I study this generation not just for my own amusement but because they are our future leaders, imo, social media and technology have contributed to changing their brains and responses. We can say they have to follow our rules but as they rise to position in our society, they will change the rules, hence the new marijuana laws, and I’m trying to get a handle on it as a parent and soon to be senior citizen in about 7 years- -not just to study an interesting subject.

      • Sorry- this senior citizen is confused by your confusion about labels and human nature.

        Millennials are people just like you and me- but stuck with a different generational tagl.

        Mike Kulich selling porn is no different than the guys in my generation who made good money mailing it out in plain brown wrappers. Robber barons corner markets in coal, steel, gold and silver or pharmaceuticals- and then raise the prices to the point the government has to step in to break up the monopolies- Shkreli did that but was dumb and naive to expect no uproar when he was playing with life and death- no hyperbole!!.

        Human nature doesn’t change and good and bad doesn’t change. What changes are the toys and weapons we get to use. Shkreli is an outlier in any generation. Kulich is providing a product and building an empire just like Hugh Hefner did.

  3. Steve, it’s hard to have a virtual conversation about this multi-dimensional subject matter — as I’m sure we would find much common ground in our views. This is when I wish online were more effective to allow us more than really soundbites of our whole thinking process. My thinking process is continually evolving on this and many other things and I’m going to continue as I have a millennial daughter. It’s not totally black and white for me. What I think has dramatically changed that we’ve never dealt with before — is that change is now on a cellular biological level if we are to believe some of the recent studies about social media, computers, cell phones — so much engagement in technology, minute by minute that is so self-focused, so narcissistic, that it is rewiring our biology. I totally see it and believe this to be so.

    What I’ve noticed with many young people is that for lack of a better concept, there has developed an invisible “shield” around their emotions, their hearts, their inner thoughts — hindering or morphing their responses to a lot of issues and many of them moral issues. What I heard from Shkreli is that he “deeply cares about people and their welfare and would never put his profits over a human life.” He truly feels that — be it true or not – -that’s his skewed perception, and his constant engagement (as he admits freely — he spends hours and hours online) online, twitter, facebook has enabled him to exist in his own universe vs reality and how he really might be behaving. THIS is what I’m trying to say. I’m not defending him or Kulich for their choices but observing and also trying to preserve some compassion for how our young people are being shaped by powers they know not much of. They are just using these super tools that dwarf any of the tools that were around when we were developing as young humans.

    Young people are so used to seeing unclothed beautiful bodies, thanks to the media, sexting, etc — their responses are no longer normal. Is it right? Not in my view but it is what it is.

    So, if you and I were to sit down, I’m sure we would agree on many things.

    • Nancy Hunter Wilson

      “invisible shield’? On the contrary, I find today’s generation far, far more vocal with their opinions, thoughts, emotions than past generations.
      Willing, wanting to argue points of view, and, more importantly, listening to opposing views because they want to learn. I don’t understand your idea that “young people are being shaped by powers they know not much of”.

      Information is a good thing.

  4. Deb Rosenfeld

    Wow, you seem to have drunk the kool-aid on these guys. One is a porn king (if you found out that he was indulging his clients with child porn, would you feel differently?) and the other has been indicted in NY because of screwing investors in his hedge funds (not to mention that he had a nice little business in “pump and dump”).. There is no way you can romanticize these guys by attributing their characteristics to being millenials. They are thugs who have a warped view of the world, although it was amusing to read that one was trying to repackage the other.

    Here’s a link to the reasons for Shkreli’s arrest:
    https://www.sec.gov/news/pressrelease/2015-282.html

  5. Jerry MacDaid

    Has anyone else noticed the physical and moral resemblance between Shkreli and Martin Short’s Nathan Thurm character?

    • Nancy Hunter Wilson

      Both men in this post reflect the moral resemblance of Donald J Trump.

  6. Mark Demmerle

    These guys make a great couple,… ‘seedy’ and ‘greedy’! The morals and ethics that allow people like these two to objectify another human being for profit do not characterize an entire generation of young people.

  7. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    Dan, you begin this post: “06880 is fascinated by…” this guy. You? Why?

  8. Bobbie Herman

    I find them both totally loathsome.