She did not own a television and had not taken a vacation for 10 years – 6 interesting facts about the disgraced billionaire Elizabeth Holmes – The Theranos founder woke up at 4 am every day and ‘thanked god’.

Founder and former CEO of start-up Theranos, Elizabeth Holmes, is currently on trial for fraud. Photo: Getty Images


The fate of the woman who fooled Silicon Valley, Elizabeth Holmes, lies in the hands of 12 jury members. They continued their deliberations on December 27, Monday morning, in relation to a dozen felony counts related to Holmes and her fraudulent blood-testing start-up, Theranos.

The 37-year-old former billionaire founded the company at 19, and is accused of hoodwinking everybody into thinking she could conduct blood tests using just a few drops of blood. Her trial has resulted in a cult following – you are either #TeamHolmes or #TeamTruth. But just who is the woman behind the charges?

Here are six things you may not know about Silicon Valley’s most well-known businesswoman, Elizabeth Holmes.

The fraud trial of Elizabeth Holmes, former CEO of Theranos, is nearing an end as the jury deliberates. Photo: Reuters

1. Privacy was everything, even with food
Holmes was very selective about what she shared with her staff. Her assistant, Paige Williams, who worked for her from 2015 to 2018, told the FBI that information such as Holmes’ food preferences could not be shared with anyone, according to Mercury News. Williams said that food lists and shopping items were kept at home because she didn’t want people to know about her eating habits.

Former CEO of Theranos, Elizabeth Holmes, reportedly followed a vegan diet for a period of time. Photo: Shutterstock

Williams said the disgraced CEO was vegan for a period and “did not want it to be made a big deal”. In an interview with The New Yorker in 2014, Holmes said she drank a concoction of cucumber, parsley, kale, spinach, romaine lettuce and celery several times a day.

Elizabeth Holmes’ ex-boyfriend, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani. Photo: @MalpracticeLaw1/Twitter

2. The Balwani relationship
Before Holmes tied the knot with hospitality heir Billy Evans in a “secret” ceremony in 2019, she dated Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani for about 12 years. Holmes, who was 18 at the time, met then-37-year-old Balwani, her former second-in-command at Theranos, in 2002. According to Refinery29, they started dating in 2004. Then, in 2009, Balwani joined Theranos. According to Mercury News, Williams told the FBI the couple did everything they could to keep their relationship private, but it soon became clear they were running Theranos as a “partnership”.

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Elizabeth Holmes and her ex-boyfriend Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, who was also second-in-command at Theranos. Photo: @profblue/Twitter
Elizabeth Holmes told The New Yorker in 2014 that she can quote Jane Austen by heart. Photo: Reuters

In 2016, he “retired” from Theranos, although some media reports state he was fired. The couple ended their relationship around the same time. In 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed four claims against him for violating the US Securities Act and a federal grand jury later indicted him and Holmes on nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Balwani is claiming innocence, saying he didn’t make any money from Theranos. In her testimony at her trial, Holmes accused Balwani of physical and psychological abuse – an allegation he has denied.


3. Holmes’ ultra-strict schedule
In court, Holmes shared old notes about her strict daily schedule, which she says was a result of Balwani controlling her life. The handwritten schedule shows how she began each day at 4am where she “thanked God”. From 4.14am to 4.45am, she meditated. At 5.20am, she had an hour to shower, change and get ready for her day. She would have breakfast – banana and whey – between 6.30am and 6.45am.

In her schedule, she also had notes on how to behave. She wrote that her hands must always be in her pockets, that she must “show no excitement” and she must speak in a “calm, direct, pointed” manner.

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Elizabeth Holmes told The New Yorker in 2014 that she can quote Jane Austen by heart. Photo: Reuters

4. She’s a Jane Austen fan
In 2014, just as Holmes was becoming more famous, she told The New Yorker she can quote Jane Austen by heart, but the publication added that she “no longer devotes time to novels or friends, doesn’t date, doesn’t own a television, and hasn’t taken a holiday in 10 years”.

Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos, exits federal court in California, US, on December 21. Photo: Bloomberg

5. Reaching out to friends
According to CNBC, Holmes called on her former sorority sisters from Kappa Alpha Theta at Stanford University to show up for her during her trial. CNBC claims not everyone accepted the invitation, but a small group of women, mainly from Holmes’ early days at university, have been part of the Holmes entourage outside court.


6. “Poetry” revealed
Cringeworthy text messages between Holmes and Balwani were released during the trial by prosecutors, and the former Theranos CEO’s hand at “poetry” ended up becoming viral meme fodder on social media. In one of the messages Holmes sent to her ex-boyfriend, she writes: “You are the breeze in desert for me. My water. And ocean. Meant to be only together tiger.” Balwani awkwardly replied, “OK.”

Note: This story was originally published on SCMP and has been republished on this website.

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