Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes and her ex-boyfriend and former business partner Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani exchanged lovey-dovey—and sometimes paranoid—texts while trying to tackle problems with their startup’s blood-testing devices, newly released messages show.
“Really want to be home so bad. Feel like I an [sic] living another life,” Balwani, then president of the Silicon Valley startup, wrote in November 2013, while he was visiting his mother in the hospital.
“I know,” Holmes replied. “So strange not coming home to you.”
According to an exhibit filed Tuesday in Holmes’ wire fraud trial underway in San Jose, California, Balwani later added: “We need to get business in control. Missing u.”
“Missing you more,” Holmes replied.
Holmes, 37, and Balwani, 56, are accused of defrauding patients and investors in a multimillion-dollar scheme related to their portable blood labs, which they claimed could screen for hundreds of diseases using only a finger-prick of blood. But prosecutors say they advertised their machines and installed them in Walgreens stores despite knowing the technology was flawed and provided inaccurate results.
The erstwhile couple has pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Balwani, who was Holmes’ deputy and whom former employees described as a tyrant, is expected to face trial early next year.
While prosecutors have surfaced batches of seemingly romantic texts in court since last week, Holmes has also accused Balwani of physical and emotional abuse. Balwani’s lawyers, in recently unsealed filings, indicated Holmes has considered testifying as part of her defense that Balwani controlled her and decimated “her capacity to make decisions.”
According to the text messages filed in court, in October 2014, Balwani advised Holmes: “Careful what u say. They will steal ideas.” While it’s unclear whom Balwani was referring to, he added an hour later: “Change your energy please.”
The cache also includes one message from Holmes’ mother, Noel, who thanked the couple and Elizabeth’s brother Chris for their hospitality during a trip to Palo Alto. “It was wonderful to be together,” Noel wrote, “and thank you for taking us to our favorite restaurant twice!”
Noel Holmes appears to suggest Elizabeth was becoming somewhat of a tech celebrity. “Obviously word is getting out that you frequent it, which is why Sheryl and Mark are suddenly showing up,” Noel wrote in the text chain.
“Meant Marissa, not Sheryl,” the mother added, perhaps referring to former Yahoo chief executive Marissa Mayer.
The following month, Balwani discussed problems with Theranos’ lab and customer service and one lab manager being “burnt out.” Balwani texted Holmes: “Fundamentally we need to stop fighting fires by not creating them.”
He later described the Theranos lab—codenamed “Normandy” and where the startup’s proprietary devices were kept—as “a fucking disaster zone.” “Glad I came here,” Balwani wrote. “Will work on fixing this.”
Throughout their exchanges, however, Holmes referred to Balwani as “my tiger” and “my king” in messages of her own.
She even waxed poetic about her love for Balwani in messages released last week.
“You are breeze in desert for me,” Holmes wrote in May 2015. “My water. And ocean. … Meant to be only together tiger.”
“Madly in love with you and your strength,” she added.
About 15 minutes later, Balwani replied, “I am tired today. Spending so much time on bullshit and none on software or things that build our product.”
The next day, the couple was busy identifying employees they believed had disclosed “trade secrets” and gabbed to the Wall Street Journal. They discussed suing Rochelle Gibbons, the widow of the startup’s chief scientist Ian Gibbons, for defamation and sending a legal letter to a suspected leaker named “Tyler.” The latter was presumably Tyler Shultz, a key whistleblower in the Theranos scandal and grandson of former Secretary of State and board member George Shultz, who was a tireless supporter of Holmes.
“Out of al [sic] challenges are greatest opportunities,” Holmes wrote to Balwani.
“Absolutely. This one is fairly easy to get ahead of,” Balwani replied.
In some exchanges, Balwani appeared to be all business despite Holmes’ starry-eyed overtures.
In June 2015, Balwani texted Holmes: “Missing you.”
“Me more,” she replied, adding: “Was thinking about you this morning.”
“We need to stay focused and vigilant,” Balwani answered. “We are lazy and disorganized and not focused.”
“Tonight is Friday night,” Holmes wrote. “I have been thinking the same things as you know. I was sending that in the context of you and me.”
“Even in the context of u and me we need to stay focused dying the day,” Balwani said, before correcting his typo: “During.”