Martin Shkreli's Successor at Turing Had His Own Issues in Past

Shkreli and Turing: What’s Next?
  • Ron Tilles, the former chairman, has flown under the radar
  • Sued for fraud by investor who allegedly threatened him

The successor to Martin Shkreli, the flamboyant former executive at the center of the drug industry’s price-gouging scandals, is someone few people have ever heard of. But his past is nearly as colorful as Shkreli’s.

His name is Ron Tilles, and his peripatetic career has included allegations of fraud and illicit offshore accounts -- and his own claim that an angry investor threatened to kill him. Tilles is stepping in to lead Turing Pharmaceuticals AG, the drugmaker the two men built, following Shkreli’s arrest on securities fraud charges.

The 57-year-old Tilles might seem an unlikely successor to Shkreli, 25 years his junior. Shkreli has lived his life on Twitter, livestreamed on YouTube and once called himself the "world’s most eligible bachelor.” Tilles, by contrast, has flown largely under the radar.

But for the last few years, the lives of the two men have been entwined, first at Retrophin Inc. and then Turing. Shkreli founded Retrophin in 2011 and brought on Tilles as a consultant. When Shkreli was fired last year, he started Turing and Tilles was an early investor and chairman.

Obscure Drugs

Tilles was named interim chief executive officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals on Dec. 18, the day after Shkreli was arrested for allegedly losing money for investors and lying to them about it in actions related to his time as a hedge-fund manager. Shkreli, 32, has pleaded not guilty. He achieved notoriety when he had Turing jack up prices on an obscure drug, drawing the ire of presidential candidates and Congress.

Turing said in a statement on Dec. 22 that Tilles “offers the company the operational leadership, industry knowledge and thoughtful vision necessary to drive the company forward.”

His role might be short-lived. The company will seek a permanent CEO, Turing said on Dec. 22, as well as cut an unspecified number of jobs.

Tilles had previously spent two decades in the financial industry, beginning his career at Merrill Lynch before moving to a number of smaller companies, according to records filed with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Those employers include Cripple Creek Securities LLC, which was based in Maplewood, New Jersey.

Biotech Firms

Tilles has been registered since 2004 with Robert R. Meredith & Co., and also consults part-time with biotech firms backed by venture capitalists and angel investors, helping them raise capital, his Finra records show. His biography page on the Turing website says he graduated from Middlebury College and got his MBA from Columbia Business School. According to Columbia’s alumni directory, he graduated in 1985.

The Internal Revenue Service filed a tax lien against Tilles three years ago, seeking $79,160 in unpaid taxes, interest and penalties for the 2008 tax year, according to a filing with the clerk of the Pinellas County, Florida circuit court. A Tilles representative said the issue has been resolved.

In 2006, Tilles was accused of fraud by an investor who claimed that Tilles took $14 million he had been managing and funneled it into offshore entities for his own benefit. The investor, Peter Sahagen, sued Tilles and his wife, alleging the couple “intentionally took steps to mislead and deceive” him, tapping offshore accounts to launder assets and fund a lavish lifestyle, including a taste for fine wine. Ultimately, they “absconded with all such funds to an unknown location,” Sahagen alleged.

Retrophin Suit

In response, Tilles alleged in court filings that Sahagen threatened to kill him and his wife and “chop them up.” The parties settled the litigation for undisclosed terms late in 2006, according to a filing in Manhattan federal court.

A representative for Tilles declined to comment on the suit, noting it had been settled. Sahagen’s lawyer in the case, James J. Mahon, also declined to comment.

Tilles’ name surfaced more recently in a lawsuit filed in August by Retrophin against Shkreli, accusing Shkreli of using Retrophin shares to pay off outside debts. Retrophin describes Tilles as one of seven “close personal associates” that Shkreli used in order to transfer shares of stock. The suit doesn’t allege any wrongdoing by Tilles.

Three Occasions

Tilles was criticized by a judge in a separate suit against Shkreli, filed in September 2014, for “plainly dodging” a subpoena to give a deposition. According to an order from magistrate judge Michael Dolinger, Tilles avoided being served a subpoena on three occasions at Turing’s offices. Eventually, the server mailed copies to Tilles’ two last-known addresses, in Manhattan and Florida.

Through a spokeswoman, Tilles blamed defects in the subpoena and his travel schedule among other reasons for his not getting served. But Shkreli agreed to settle the suit before the deposition could take place.

Tilles is heading a small, privately held drug company that lost more than $27 million this year through September. The company, which has offices in Switzerland and New York, said in August that it had raised $90 million in a funding round. Shkreli remains on its board, according to Turing.

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