Tech

Elizabeth Holmes' private texts reveal she described herself as the 'best business person of the year'

Key Points
  • CNBC has obtained nearly 600 pages of private text and Skype messages between former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes and her then-boyfriend Sunny Balwani.
  • In a 2014 text message, Holmes wrote to Balwani: "total confidence in myself best business person of the year."
  • Referring to their investors, Balwani wrote, "They are not investing in our company they are investing in our destiny.”
  • A series of messages from April 2015 show the pair took a luxurious weekend trip to Las Vegas.
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Inside the courtroom of Theranos' Elizabeth Holmes trial

Former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes believed in herself so much that she wrote in a text message to Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani proclaiming that she had "total confidence in myself best business person of the year."

The message to her then-boyfriend and Theranos President Balwani are among thousands of private texts and Skype messages obtained by CNBC that show Holmes had no lack of confidence in herself and Theranos, the blood-testing company she founded. They also reveal that Holmes told Balwani about courting high-profile investors who ended up giving Theranos hundreds of millions of dollars.

"My new life as of this night and forever more: - total confidence in myself best business person of the year – focus – details excellence – don't give what anyone thinks – engage employees in meetings by stories and making it about them (ie prepare well)," Holmes texted Balwani in November 2014 while discussing the full moon that evening.

Ten minutes later, Holmes texted again: "No response?" Balwani responded: "Awesome. U r listening and paying attention…"

That same month, Holmes texted Balwani: "Just finished calls. Alice Walton in for 50. Confirmed 100 Greg." She is apparently referring to Alice Walton of Walmart fame. Greg's identity is not clear. The Walton family eventually invested a total of $150 million in Theranos in 2014.

Balwani responded, "Awesome. I was thinking today. They are not investing in our company they are investing in our destiny." That turned out to be an ominous prediction given that Theranos shut down in 2018 and the pair are now accused of orchestrating a multimillion-dollar scheme to mislead investors and patients about Theranos.

Holmes and Balwani each face 10 counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. They have both pleaded not guilty. Holmes' trial began last month. Balwani will face a separate trial next year.

A few minutes later in the same text chain Holmes messaged Balwani: "Rupert over 100," referring to media mogul Rupert Murdoch who is among the high-profile investors in Theranos. Murdoch invested $125 million in the company.

"Can't wait to learn more about conversation with Rupert," Balwani texted in response. "Very good :)" Holmes said, adding "He would have met longer."

CNBC reached out to Walton and Murdoch. They did not respond. Some of the Theranos investors are expected to testify in the trial.

The private messages, nearly 600 pages' worth, span from June 2011 to July 2016. The texts also show specifics about the high-flying lifestyle Holmes and Balwani led while Theranos was bleeding hundreds of millions of dollars, according to financial reports.  

In March 2015, Holmes texted Balwani: "Mary Meeker trying to convince me to stay private, raise massive $$$ and go and think bigger."

Meeker is a well-known venture capitalist who is a partner at Bond Capital. She is famous in the tech industry for her annual Internet Trends report, a presentation of dozens of slides covering the hottest trends for investors. Meeker did not respond to CNBC's request for comment.

In a group text from April 2015, Holmes' brother, Christian, messaged her and Balwani about an upcoming trip to Las Vegas: "Not sure if these are options but from dan : presidential suite at four seasons $3k,mandarin apex suite view of strip $3400 or presidential $15k, or encore junior suite $700 view of golf course."

According to a source who worked at Theranos and was aware of the trip, the group was planning a weekend getaway. The employee recalled that time period as an incredibly difficult one at the company with high-profile exits including the sudden departure of lab director Adam Rosendorff. It's unclear if Theranos paid for the trip.

"People would just disappear and they were leaving without jobs, it was clear the company was grounded to a halt," the former Theranos employee said. "That's a huge red flag."

In a series of text messages also from April 2015, Balwani seems to acknowledge the poorly timed trip. He texted Holmes: "The Vegas trip is such a distraction. Bad timing. But the guys bought everything non refundable. So we will do it. But then I don't want distractions until we win."

"Then let's focus on it in our room, do dinner, and go back early," Holmes replied. "I don't like distractions ever."

Holmes followed up with another text to Balwani about high-end reservations: "Dinner can try the three star Michelin French in mgm - can just try all the ones that are top nationally rated and see what we get," she wrote.

In another exchange, Balwani said "Got table at XS dance [floor]." And a few minutes later, Balwani told Holmes "Getting private security for u". "Private security?" Holmes replied. "One dedicated security guy with us all night." Balwani said.

Problems inside Theranos were first revealed in October 2015 by then Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou. The text messages obtained by CNBC show discussions about Carreyrou between Balwani and Holmes.

Carreyrou had sought to interview both Holmes and Balwani but neither agreed. Balwani texted that he "didn't have to meet with someone who was attacking me."

Balwani's attorney, Jeffrey Coopersmith, declined to comment. Attorneys for Holmes did not respond to CNBC's request for comment.