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Henry Kissinger's puzzling connection to disgraced Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes

Sarah Jackson   

Henry Kissinger's puzzling connection to disgraced Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes
  • Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger died Wednesday at 100.
  • Kissinger's business dealings included close involvement with Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes.

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's troubled legacy includes his involvement with failed blood-testing startup Theranos and its now-imprisoned founder, Elizabeth Holmes.

The Cold War diplomat died Wednesday at his Connecticut home. He was 100.

Kissinger, whose bombing campaigns led to the slaughter of millions of people, according to historians, was once a board member at Theranos.

His was among an unusual roster of names for a healthcare startup, with leaders more experienced in politics and government than healthcare, including fellow former US Secretary of State George Shultz, former US Secretary of Defense William Perry, former US Senator Sam Nunn. Other former board members included former Wells Fargo CEO Richard Kovacevich and former CDC director William H. Foege.

Kissinger was influential in recruiting other big donors for the startup, which peaked at a valuation of $9 billion and once seemed poised to revolutionize blood-testing in the healthcare industry.

He invested $3 million himself, and his estate lawyer, Daniel Mosley, kicked in another $6 million, the attorney testified at Holmes' trial in 2021.

Kissinger also convinced billionaire families including the DeVos, Cox, and Walton clans to shell out a cumulative $370 million for the startup.

Kissinger heaped on the praise for Holmes, writing in Time's 2015 list of the world's 100 most influential people that Holmes was "striking, somewhat ethereal, iron-willed."

Kissinger, of course, proved wrong about Theranos.

The company imploded after reporting by The Wall Street Journal in 2015 revealed the company was using third-party machines already on the market, rather than its own machine, to run its tests.

Federal agencies ran investigations into Theranos, and in 2018, Holmes stepped down as CEO and the startup later shuttered.

In 2022, following a monthslong trial that gripped Silicon Valley, Holmes was convicted on one count of conspiracy to defraud investors and three counts of wire fraud pertaining to individual investors.

She was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison, though her sentence has since been shortened by two years. Holmes reported to a women's prison in Bryan, Texas, this May to begin serving her sentence.

Kissinger's ode to Holmes in Time's 2015 list now reads ominously.

"When I was introduced to Elizabeth by George Shultz, her plan sounded like an undergraduate's dream," he wrote, referring to the former Secretary of State and Theranos board member.

"I told her she had only two prospects: total failure or vast success. There would be no middle ground."