The mystery surrounding former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes is as intoxicating as it is fascinating. Perhaps you know Holmes from Bad Blood, the award-winning book chronicling her epic, real-life Silicon Valley scam — and the basis for an upcoming movie directed by Adam Mckay and starring "America’s Sweetheart" Jennifer Lawrence. Or maybe you've heard of the two forthcoming documentaries on this glamorous fallen darling of the biotech world. Or, if you’re anything like us, you just live and breathe con-artist stories à la Anna Delvey, Billy McFarland, and Caroline Calloway. These kinds of real-life rackets get more interesting the more high-stakes and criminal they get — and Holmes's is no exception.
At just 19, while still at Stanford University, the entrepreneur decided to start her own company. Apparently motivated by her own fear of needles, Holmes wanted to revolutionize the healthcare industry by creating a new way to test blood. What came about was Theranos, the word child of “therapy” and “diagnosis,” a health-technology company that claimed to have created blood tests that only required a pinprick to diagnose a broad range of illnesses. Good in theory, right? That’s what the myriad of Theranos investors thought as well, and the company skyrocketed to fame over the coming years, as did Holmes's net worth.
In 2014, both Holmes and Theranos were flying higher than ever. That year, Fortune profiled the CEO and founder, revealing that she owned 50% of the company, which at the time was valued at $9 billion. In 2015, she topped the Forbes list of America's 50 Richest Self-Made Women, estimated again to be worth $4.5 billion at the ripe age of 31. But within a year, everything fell apart, and Theranos came under fire, suspected of exaggerating the accuracy of its tests. Federal officials soon began a criminal investigation of the company.
By 2016, Forbes had revised their list, estimating Holmes’s net worth at zero dollars. This valuation was echoed in 2017 when it was revealed that Holmes still owed her own company around $25 million. But as it turned out, that wasn’t rock bottom for her. In 2018, after a two-year investigation by the SEC, Holmes agreed to pay a $500,000 settlement fine, as well as relinquish her shares in the company (she was also prohibited from serving as an officer of any public company for the next ten years).
So it’s safe to say that Holmes isn’t sitting anywhere near that $4.5 billion pinnacle she once was. If Forbes’s 2016 estimate is correct, and her growing debt is accurately reported, we have a feeling she’s going to be in need of a new gig soon. But there’s always the hope that she could reap monetary compensation for her participation in those upcoming documentaries. We heard it worked out well for Billy McFarland.