Who is Elizabeth Holmes? Theranos founder begins prison sentence in Texas
Elizabeth Holmes officially began serving her 11-year prison sentence on Tuesday, May 30, after she was convicted on four counts of fraud linked to her failed blood-testing start-up.
Ms Holmes, 39, was originally due to start her stint behind bars in April, after she fraudulently scammed investors out of millions of dollars while running a bogus enterprise, but proceedings were halted while she appealed her sentence.
In mid-May, Ms Holmes requested to remain free on bail while a challenge to the original conviction was considered, but this was rejected by the judge. US district judge Edward Davila said she had failed to provide any evidence that her appeal would be likely to lead to a new trial.
In a separate ruling, Judge Davila also ordered that Holmes jointly pay restitution payments of $452m to the victims of her crimes, alongside her former lover and top dog at Theranos, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani.
Holmes, the boss of Theranos, a US company that she falsely claimed had developed a machine that could run hundreds of complex blood tests with a single finger pinprick, will now serve her term in a minimum-security federal prison in Texas, working for between 10p and 93p an hour.
The story of Theranos’ founder and CEO (not to be confused with another Elizabeth Holmes who provides witty sartorial commentary about the Royal Family) is one of the biggest scandals in recent history. Once one of Silicon Valley’s most high-profile wunderkinds, she was feted by the likes ofBill Clinton andJoe Biden.
The Theranos scandal has also been the subject of numerous screen treatments. Bad Blood, a feature film starringJennifer Lawrenceand directed by Anchorman’s Adam McKay and produced by Will Ferrell, is in development. In 2022, the Hulu miniseriesThe Dropout starred Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon. Holmes’s sentencing and the Hulu miniseries were the subjects of Apple podcasts. An HBO documentary,The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, was released in 2019. And in 2018, the bookBad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup was published.
Here’s everything you need to know about the woman who was once tipped to be the next Steve Jobs (right down to her penchant for wearingblack polo necks).
Who is Elizabeth Holmes?
Elizabeth Holmes was born to a wealthy family in Washington, DC in 1984. She attended Stanford University, where she first came up with the idea for her company, Theranos.
When she told her professor Dr Phyllis Gardner about her idea, Gardner told her it was ambitious but also impossible. Her idea was to invent a machine that could run hundreds of complex tests on blood with a single finger pinprick.
Holmes nevertheless went on to launch the company and lied for years about what her blood-testing company, Theranos, was actually capable of.
Holmes was positioned as the female Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk after dropping out of Stanford during her sophomore year to pursue Theranos, which takes its name from “therapy” and “diagnostics”.
She modelled her image on Steve Jobs, hiring former Apple employees and even wearing his signature black turtlenecks. After she made his turtleneck her go-to wardrobe choice, she also started speaking in what people who knew her before insisted was a fake deep voice.
Where is Elizabeth Holmes now?
As of this week, Elizabeth Holmes is serving her 11-year prison sentence in Texas.
Before reporting to prison, according toGoodto.com, she lived in a nine-bedroom $135m (£108m) California estate with her husband, their baby son, and two dogs.
She is married to Billy Evans, a hospitality heir and MIT graduate who works in tech, and is eight years younger than her. The pair own a pup called Balto, a husky who she was convinced was half-wolf. She brought the dog into the lab with her even though he could contaminate samples and was not toilet trained.
Holmes was sentenced to 11 years in November 2022 but had been appealing the decision.
She and her former COO, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, both pleaded not guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and nine counts of wire fraud. In her deposition, Holmes said “I don’t know” more than 600 times. She also revealed that she and Balwani had been in a romantic relationship and had been living together — a fact they hadn’t disclosed to the investors from whom they took hundreds of millions of dollars.
The pair were released on $500,000 (£403,000) bail and had to give up their passports.
“Not only did they fool the investors, they fooled patients, they fooled doctors,” Reed Kathrein, who sued Theranos on behalf of investors, told ABC News in reference to the accuracy of Theranos’s blood tests.
Even when the scandal was uncovered, Holmes remained almost eerily calm. During the final days of Theranos, she was pictured partying at Burning Man.
What is Elizabeth Holmes’s net worth?
By 2014, Theranos was valued at $10 billion (around £8 bn) and attracted investors, including the founders of Walmart, Rupert Murdoch and the DeVos family. In 2015, Forbes estimated Holmes's net worth as $4.5 billion (£3.6 bn), making her the youngest self-made female billionaire at the time.
In 2016, Holmes’s net worth was estimated by Forbes to be zero.