Martin Shkreli’s Replacement Has a Questionable Past
When Martin Shkreli stepped down as CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals last week—following his arrest for securities fraud—the controversial company named chairman Ron Tilles as interim CEO. Not terribly surprising, even if Tilles has deep ties to Retrophin Inc. (RTRX), a different biotech company at the heart of Shkreli’s alleged transgressions. (Tilles was mentioned in the complaint against Shkreli, but was not charged with any wrongdoing.)
What was strange, however, was how Turing Pharma described Tilles in the press release announcing his appointment:
Mr. Tilles began his career at Merrill Lynch in 1985 and subsequently worked with several other securities firms. Ron’s experience includes numerous private equity and venture capital positions in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries over the last 20 years.
Unfortunately, there is no publicly-available evidence that Tilles ever held even a single private equity or venture capital position in the pharma or medical device industries, let alone “numerous” ones. In fact, his official bio on the Turing Pharma website omits any mention of venture capital or private equity work.
Tilles is registered as an active broker-dealer with Robert W. Meredith & Co., although a person who answered the phone at Robert W. Meredith could not confirm his current involvement. According to a document Tilles filed with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), he previously was registered with six other securities firms—dating back to Merrill Lynch between 1985 and 1987. There are a few short gaps in the history—and a bit of overlap—but the longest lag is well short of a single year:
- Robert W. Meredith: 12/04-present
- Cripple Creek Securities: 10/04-1/05
- Condor Securities: 11/93-1/03
- Yamaichi International : 1/92-8/93
- LIT America: 4/89-5/91
- Nikko Securities: 4/88-1/89
- Merrill Lynch: 9/85-7/87
In that same document, Tilles writes the following:
With Robert R. Meredith’s permission, I provide consulting advice on a part-time basis to several privately held companies in the biotechnology industry. These companies are typically financed by venture capitalists and angel investors. I provide introductions on behalf of these early stage companies and receive fees from time to time for these introductions. The work hours devoted to this effort have not averaged more than 20 hours a month at any given time, partially during trading hours, and partially outside of trading hours.
There is a world of difference between providing part-time consulting to venture-backed biotech companies and holding a “venture capital position” within said biotech company.
Perhaps the Turing press release referred to how Tilles served as Retrophin’s director of business development, a position that sometimes involves venture capital or private equity activities. But Retrophin was hardly an active investor, with S&P Capital IQ showing not a single equity investment in a privately-held company (unless you include a few strategic acquisitions). It also is worth noting that neither Retrophin nor Turing are mentioned by Tilles on his FINRA doc under a section titled “employment history,” which is supposed to cover the past decade.
Tilles is listed as a board member on the website of an enterprise software company called QuantumID Technologies, but his QID email no longer works and phone calls to the company redirect to what seems to be a personal voicemail.
A Turing Pharma spokesman has not returned requests for comment, and an email sent to an alternate address for Tilles has not been returned.