Texts between Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes and ex-COO Sunny Balwani show their dynamic in a new light

April 14, 2022, 10:13 PM UTC

While Sunny Balwani’s legal team maintains that he was simply an investor in Theranos, newly revealed text messages cast his involvement with the infamous startup in a new light. 

During Balwani’s trial, a collection of private text messages were shown to jurors to help them gain insight into the nature of Balwani’s romantic relationship with Elizabeth Holmes and their business partnership. 

“I am responsible for everything at Theranos,” Balwani wrote in one text exchange to Holmes, as reported by NBC.

“I worked six years day and night to help you…sad about where we are,” Balwani also texted Holmes, emphasizing his dedication to his work at Theranos, according to NBC.

The relationship between Holmes—Theranos’ founder—and her ex-boyfriend Balwani—its former president and chief operating officer—is a talking point the lawyers have brought up repeatedly in both fraud cases.

In the public eye, Holmes was in charge of Theranos, and in 2017, she even told the SEC that she was “the ultimate decision-maker” for the company. The former startup CEO was touted as the youngest self-made billionaire in 2015. Beyond being the face of the company, Holmes also represented Theranos at prestigious conferences like President Bill Clinton’s CGI (Clinton Global Initiative) meeting in 2015, a 2014 TEDMED Talk, and the Wall Street Journal’s WSJD Live 2015.

While Balwani’s image wasn’t known to the public, his private influence was present in all areas of the company, according to the newly revealed text exchanges in which he admits to wielding a lot of power and takes responsibility for Theranos. This new information undermines the position of his legal defense, which maintains that he wasn’t in charge of the company.

Balwani is currently on trial for his role in the company’s defrauding investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars. He is charged with 10 counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He has pleaded not guilty to all 12 counts. 

Holmes has previously labeled Balwani as verbally and sexually abusive and even claimed that Balwani controlled what she ate and berated her, likening her leadership skills to a “monkey trying to fly a spaceship.” 

Holmes was found guilty on Jan. 4 of one count of conspiracy and three counts of wire fraud “in connection with a multimillion-dollar scheme to defraud investors in Theranos, Inc.,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Holmes is currently living in her $135 million Silicon Valley mansion awaiting her sentencing in September. She faces up to 80 years in prison.

Holmes met Balwani in China when she was 18 and he was 37. After Holmes dropped out of Stanford University in 2004, she soon moved in with Balwani in 2005.

Holmes is known her affinity for green juice after her former executive assistant at Theranos began creating popular TikTok videos in which she recalled her experiences working at the infamous blood testing company, such as being tasked to go to Whole Foods twice a day to pick up “incredibly fresh” green juice. 

The popularity of the limited Hulu series, The Dropout, which stars Amanda Seyfried as Holmes, has caused a resurgence of interest in the outcome of Balwani’s trial. In the series, Holmes’s relationship with Balwani—which is kept secret from their colleagues—is one of the most interesting dynamics in the show and has multiple dramatic scenes that are based in real life.

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