Wearing a loud, bitcoin-decorated tie, influential cryptocurrency billionaire and Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper appeared on CNBC’s Closing Bell on Thursday.
But Draper’s colorful cravat was almost instantly upstaged by his truculent comments about another one of his investments.
What began as a standard interview quickly turned into an argument between Closing Bell’s Kelly Evans and Draper. Draper defended both his investment in the controversial healthcare company Theranos and the intentions of its founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes. Draper said that he stood by a statement he made early last year in which he claimed that Holmes, a longtime friend, was the victim of a media-instigated witchhunt.
“I feel that we’ve taken down another great icon,” said Draper. “This woman [Holmes] came to me when she was 19 years old and said, ‘I’m going to transform healthcare as we know it,’ and she got bullied into submission.”
When Evans interjected that Theranos’s investors have lost a staggering $900 million on their initial investments, Draper asked, “Are you talking at the same time I’m talking?”
Draper went on to say that Holmes had created a company that was “an amazing opportunity.” Now, said Draper, the company is deemed worthless because she was browbeat by not only leading drug companies, but the media as well.
There’s one member of the media in particular who has sparked Draper’s ire: John Carreyrou, a veteran Wall Street Journal reporter who investigated Theranos’s technology early on and subsequently published a book on the subject, is largely responsible for what Draper deems the company’s unjust demise.
While Draper didn’t mention Carreyrou by name, there’s little doubt that he was referring to any other journalist; Carreyrou is so widely recognized as Theranos’s foe, that the company’s employees created a video game to shoot him virtually.
“Wait, why is [Theranos] worthless?” Draper asked, rhetorically. “It’s worthless because this writer was like a badger going after her, like a hyena going after her.”
Draper went on to say that Holmes’ attempt to transform the healthcare industry was met with discrimination.
Whatever the merits of Draper’s claims, there’s no denying the impact of Carreyrou’s investigation on Theranos: The company is in reported shambles with a recent report revealing that it laid off close to 100 of its remaining employees.