‘The Dropout’: How Elizabeth Holmes’ Parents Became Rich
Hulu’s The Dropout chronicled the rise and fall of tech entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes and her biotech startup company, Theranos. It also included her family background and briefly touched on her father’s experience getting laid off from Enron amid a bankruptcy scandal. How did Elizabeth Holmes’s parents become rich?
Elizabeth Holmes’s father came from a wealthy family
Even though Elizabeth Holmes had dreams of becoming a billionaire, she came from a very wealthy family. According to family friend Richard Fuisz, her great-great-grandfather, renowned surgeon Christian R. Holmes married Fleischmann’s Yeast’s creator’s daughter.
Holmes’s dad, also named Christian, worked for multiple government agencies before relocating to Houston, Texas, to serve as vice president for now-defunct energy, commodities, and services company Enron Corporation.
Her mother, Noel Holmes, previously worked as a Capitol Hill policy aide. According to childhood friend Joseph Fuisz, the son of inventor Richard Fuisz (portrayed by William H. Macy in Hulu’s The Dropout), who Holmes infamously sued, “they really took that mantle of this family history very, very seriously.”
He thought her parents “very much yearned for the days of yore when the family was one of the richest in America” and believes a young Holmes “channeled that.”
Elizabeth Holmes’s father was laid off during the Enron scandal
Founded in 1985, Enron was a major player in several industries, receiving America’s Most Innovative Company honors from Fortune for six years in a row. On a quest to become the premiere natural-gas pipeline in the country, two top executives were charged with fraud and filing false tax returns after they hid the company’s actual loss.
After a couple of major shifts, including taking their business overseas, the COO, Jeffrey Skilling, hired financier Andrew Fastow who created a confusing web of Enron’s limited partnerships to hide its massive quarterly losses.
During 2000, the company claimed revenues of over $100 billion, sustained mainly by the accounting fraud. The following year, the SEC investigated the company, but it declared bankruptcy, resulting in the dissolution of its accounting firm, a former top audit, and accountancy partnership Arthur Andersen.
The scandal was considered the most extensive bankruptcy reorganization in the country’s history at the time. Skilling and founder Kenneth Lay were ultimately convicted on securities and wire fraud counts.
Richard Fuisz said Elizabeth Holmes’s father asked for help after Enron’s bankruptcy
During the first couple of episodes of The Dropout, Holmes’s father’s (portrayed by Sam Straley) experience with Enron is briefly touched on. He seemed upset and let down by the company and maintained that he didn’t know about the fraud.
As a result of his unexpected layoff, he had to ask a family friend for help, initially embarrassed to do so. Richard Fuisz confirmed this to Forbes in a 2019 interview, claiming her father “used his influence to get a good job at Enron. He was a vice president there.”
Additionally, after its failure, the inventor claimed the former vice president returned to Washington D.C. “broke and came crying to us. He had no money. I was living in a new house a few blocks away, and I told him that he could live in our first house in McLean, Virginia, rent-free.”
He also claimed Christian Holmes used his connections to get his daughter in front of a major venture capitalist Don Lucas, to invest in Theranos. Apparently, Holmes used her family’s name as well and brought up her famous ancestors when answering scientific questions. The Dropout is streaming on Hulu.