The rise and fall of the Silicon Valley darling is now the subject of the HBO documentary The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley as well as the John Carreyrou’s book Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup.
Theranos was once valued at about $9 billion and Holmes was named one of Forbes’s richest women in America — all with the help of Balwani, who allegedly kept her ruse going, according to Carreyrou’s reporting in The Wall Street Journal.
Here’s everything to know about the former Theranos president.
1. Who is Sunny Balwani?
Balwani was born in Pakistan to a Hindu family but was raised in India. His family later immigrated to the United States and in 1986 he began studying at the University of Texas at Austin.
The businessman found success in 1998 when he helped created CommerceBid.com, a software company that aided businesses in buying and selling items on the Internet.
He sold the company a year later in exchange for stock and by 2000 he made his fortune by cashing it out for nearly $40 million before the company went out of business.
2. How he met Holmes
In 2002, he met Holmes, then 19, during a summer trip in Beijing, China, through Stanford University’s Mandarin program.
Balwani was 37 at the time and the two became fast friends, although their relationship was platonic, according to Bad Blood.
Balwani soon enrolled at Stanford University to study computer science but dropped out in 2008. Holmes dropped out of Stanford in 2004.
In 2014, he told Fortune he was interested in working for Holmes at Theranos due to her ambition for the company.
“Elizabeth has had a very clear vision of where she wanted to take [Theranos] since the time I met her,” Balwani said at the time.
3. They reportedly had a romance
According to the book, they began living together by July 2005.
The two admitted in deposition tapes reported by ABC News in January 2019 that they never told Theranos investors of their relationship despite Balwani joining the company as its president in 2009.
Holmes said in the tapes the two had been together “for a long period of time,” while Balwani said that they were living together for a majority of their relationship.
In HBO’s documentary, former Theranos employees shared that their relationship was obvious from the very beginning, citing moments in which the two would arrive at work together every day.
4. “The Enforcer”
In a May 2018 interview with Business Insider, Carreyrou said he learned while reporting his first WSJ story that Balwani took on a prominent presence at Theranos quickly after joining the company.
“In that first phone call, which was an hour long, [my source] made very clear to me that they were running this thing as a partnership, and that Sunny was kind of the enforcer and Holmes’s older boyfriend,” Carreyrou said. “He painted the portrait of this fraud being run by a couple.”
The reporter added Balwani was allegedly “terrorizing everyone” by keeping track through security footage of how long employees at Theranos were working.
HBO’s documentary showed leaked footage of Balwani leading his employees in an “F— you” chant aimed at the company’s enemies and competitors.
5. Where Balwani is now
Balwani was banned from owning or operating a blood laboratory following an inspection of Theranos’ Newark, California, laboratory in March 2016. He left the company in May of that year.
In March 2018, Holmes and Balwani were charged with massive fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The two were charged with “raising more than $700 million from investors through an elaborate, years-long fraud in which they exaggerated or made false statements about the company’s technology, business, and financial performance,” read the release from the SEC.
In June 2018, Holmes and Balwani were charged with nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Both pleaded not guilty.
Balwani’s lawyer Jeffrey Coopersmith said in a statement to Business Insider in June 2018 that Balwani “did not defraud anyone, and it will be an honor to defend him vigorously.”
Holmes is facing up to 20 years in prison. Holmes and Theranos settled with the SEC, while Balwani is awaiting trial in San Jose. Holmes will pay a $500,000 fine as part of the settlement arrangement and be barred from serving as a director or officer of a public company for 10 years. She has not admitted or denied wrongdoing in settling.
Balwani and Holmes are slated to appear in court next on April 22, according to Business Insider.