Elizabeth Holmes (born February 3, 1984) is an American former biotechnology entrepreneur and convicted fraudster.
In 2003, Holmes founded and was the chief executive officer (CEO) of Theranos, a now-defunct health technology company that soared in valuation after the company claimed to have revolutionized blood testing by developing methods that could use surprisingly small volumes of blood, such as from a fingerprick.
By 2015, Forbes had named Holmes the youngest and wealthiest self-made female billionaire in America on the basis of a $9-billion valuation of her company.
In the following year, as revelations of potential fraud about Theranos’s claims began to surface, Forbes revised its estimate of Holmes’s net worth to zero, and Fortune named her in its feature article on “The World’s 19 Most Disappointing Leaders”.
Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, a technology entrepreneur who was born in Pakistan and immigrated to India and then the United States, was Holmes’s romantic partner.
In 2002, she went to Beijing as part of the Mandarin program at Stanford University. At the time, Holmes was 18 years old and had just finished high school; Balwani was married to another woman at the time and 19 years older than she was.
Balwani split from his wife in 2002, and around the same time that Elizabeth Holmes dropped out of college, he started dating Holmes.
In 2005, the couple got an apartment together. Despite the fact that Balwani did not officially join Theranos until 2009 when he was promoted to chief operating officer, he was assisting Holmes behind the scenes from the beginning of the company.
According to employees, Holmes and Balwani jointly led the business with a culture of “secrecy and fear.”
Throughout most of their time running the business, they kept their romantic relationship a secret.
Following the completion of investigations, Balwani left Theranos in 2016. His reasons for leaving are not clear; Balwani claims that he left on his own, in contrast to Holmes’ claim that she fired him.
Holmes testified on November 29, 2021, that she had been raped while she was a Stanford student and that she sought comfort from Balwani after the incident.
She also claimed that during their romantic relationship, which lasted more than a decade, Balwani had a lot of control over her, and that he sometimes yelled at her and abused her sxxually.
She testified that he also wanted to “kill the person” she was and make a “new Elizabeth,” and she said this in her testimony. She also testified, however, that Balwani had not coerced her into making the erroneous statements to investors, business partners, journalists, and company directors that were alleged in the case.
Balwani has “categorically” denied the allegations of abuse in court filings, calling them “false and inflammatory.”
Holmes owned half of Theranos’ stock prior to the March 2018 settlement. With a net worth of $4.5 billion, Forbes ranked her as one of America’s wealthiest self-made women in 2015.
Forbes updated Theranos’ valuation in June 2016 to $800 million, rendering Holmes’ stake virtually worthless because other investors owned preferred shares and would have been compensated prior to Holmes, who held only common stock.
When Holmes exercised his stock options, he was said to owe Theranos $25 million. She did not sell any of her shares, including those associated with the debt, nor did she receive any cash from the company as a result of the arrangement.
Theranos (Net Worth)
In 2003, Holmes founded the company Real-Time Cures in Palo Alto, California, to “democratize healthcare. Holmes described her fear of needles as motivation and sought to perform blood tests using only small amounts of blood.
When Holmes pitched the idea to reap “vast amounts of data from a few droplets of blood derived from the tip of a finger” to her medicine professor Phyllis Gardner at Stanford, Gardner responded, “I don’t think your idea is going to work”, explaining it was impossible to do what Holmes was claiming could be done.
Several other expert medical professors told Holmes the same thing. However, Holmes did not relent, and she succeeded in getting her advisor and dean at the School of Engineering, Channing Robertson, to back her idea.
In 2003, Holmes renamed the company Theranos (a portmanteau of “therapy” and “diagnosis”). Robertson became the company’s first board member and introduced Holmes to venture capitalists.
Holmes was an admirer of Apple founder Steve Jobs, and deliberately copied his style, frequently dressing in a black turtleneck sweater, as Jobs did.
Holmes says her mother dressed her in black turtlenecks when she was young, but an employee says she suggested copying Jobs’s famous Issey Miyake turtleneck look in 2007.
During most of her public appearances, she spoke in a deep baritone voice, although a former Theranos colleague later claimed he heard her speak in a voice stereotypical of a woman her age to welcome him when he was hired.
Gardner of Stanford also denies that Holmes has a naturally deep voice, Her family, however, has maintained that her deep voice is authentic.
John Carreyrou of The Wall Street Journal initiated a secret, months-long investigation of Theranos after he received a tip from a medical expert who thought that Theranos’s Edison blood testing device seemed suspicious.
Carreyrou spoke to ex-employee whistleblowers and obtained company documents. When Holmes learned of the investigation, she initiated a campaign through her lawyer David Boies to stop Carreyrou from publishing, which included legal and financial threats against both the Journal and the whistleblowers.
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