When it comes to fame and infamy, former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes has apparently cornered the market.
Internet sellers are cashing in on mugs, T-shirts and even shower curtains in the weeks before her criminal fraud trial starts in August.
One of the more unique items is what’s billed as an authentic Theranos lab coat listed for $17,000.
Holmes, once a Silicon Valley darling, is facing federal wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud charges in connection with allegedly deceiving investors, patients and doctors about her company’s blood testing technology.
Yet customers are raving about their product purchases on social media.
In one TikTok, a young woman is seen posing in a mirror wearing a pink T-shirt that reads “Elizabeth Holmes is my #GirlBoss.”
Another TikToker shows off a mug featuring Holmes on one side and Theranos on the other. She says “I truly do wish that Elizabeth Holmes had an MLM so that I could join it.” An MLM is a controversial multilevel marketing operation that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission cautions may be a pyramid scheme.
And another pulls a T-shirt out of a package, proclaiming: “Y’all it’s here. The queen of Theranos, Elizabeth Holmes.”
A search of Instagram and Twitter also shows customers posing with their merchandise.
Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of Theranos.
David Orrell | CNBC
Holmes, who is pregnant and due next month, is facing up to 20 years in prison if convicted. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Before the downfall of Theranos, her image was seemingly everywhere, even landing her on the cover of Forbes.
Today, despite a battered image and an upcoming 13-week-long trial, her brand is still apparently popular.
“It doesn’t surprise me, Elizabeth Holmes was a very inspiring person,” says Mark Macias, founder of Macias PR. “She was the youngest female billionaire, self-made entrepreneur and even though we found out it was allegedly fraud — she sold something that was revolutionary.”
Anthony, owner of the Etsy shop “Finance Memes” says sales for his Holmes-related merchandise have spiked since February. Anthony asked CNBC not to use his last name for fear of jeopardizing his employment.
“You see it with Wall Street Bets – people love to talk about how much they’ve lost,” said Anthony. “There’s an obsession with fraud, gambling and taking bad risks. Everyone loves a good villain.”
A mug that says “Theranos Early Investor” is his Etsy shop’s most popular item, Anthony says. “It’s a little more low key, you can stash it in your drawer when your boss walks by.” Anthony says he’s had over 200 visits on the mug in the last few months.
“There’s always going to be people on the fringe, who want to express themselves, take on the establishment and show the finger at them,” Macias said. Yet, he warns, “if you want to have a long-lasting brand then it’s better to be famous. Infamy is short, it can ruin and destroy a brand.”
For Holmes, whatever image she projects, it’s everlasting.
As James Surowiecki, an MSNBC columnist, wrote in a recent piece, “on the way up and on the way down, one thing about Elizabeth Holmes has stayed consistent: People are fascinated by her.”
Watch the video to learn more.