Elizabeth Holmes, left, and Steve Jobs
CNBC; David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
When the media began comparing Elizabeth Holmes to Steve Jobs, the former Theranos CEO wrote a note containing three telling words.
“Becoming Steve Jobs -” Holmes wrote on April 2, 2015, according to documents received by CNBC. The note was one of more than a dozen pages of diary-like streams of letters of consciousness that Holmes typed on himself that year. CNBC received some of these notes.
The reference to the co-founder of Apple was among the notes that appear to come from a conversation with Theranos attorney David Boies. In those notes, Holmes also referred to a new lawyer hired by the company. A Boies spokesman said he was traveling and unavailable for comment.
A biography of Jobs entitled “Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader” by Brent Schlender was published last month.
Holmes ‘ubiquitous media appearances at the time indicated that she was wearing a black turtleneck that was to evoke Jobs’ iconic look. She often said he was her idol. A former Theranos employee told CNBC that she saw a framed photo of Jobs in her office.
Five months after the news to herself, she was previously referred to as “The Next Steve Jobs” in an Inc. magazine cover story. The article began by saying, “You’d have to look really hard not to see Steve Jobs in Elizabeth Holmes.”
Like Jobs, Holmes dropped out of college. She left Stanford at 19 to start Theranos. The company’s technology promised to run hundreds of blood tests from the prick of a finger. Once the youngest self-made billionaire, she raised more than $ 900 million from discerning investors like Rupert Murdoch, the Walton family and Betsy DeVos.
Her rise to media darling did not last. The glowing press suddenly darkened the same month Inc. showed it on the cover. Shortly thereafter, on October 15, 2015, the first report in a series of investigative articles was published by former Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou, who uncovered inaccuracies in the company’s blood testing technology.
Two weeks later, Holmes wrote another note to himself: “Point by point refutation of statements”
“Fearlessly transparent nothing to hide”
In a note later that evening, Holmes wrote: “Board statement – independent view of allegations by board – make statements – not an independent opinion.
Another line read: “Strategic mistake – WSJ – impression – fight – number of allegations – made”
In response to the Journal’s investigation, Holmes wrote: “Weak allegations – supports everything – happens – if – true – casts doubt – want – board is investigating – finding none of it – has investigated – has” not considered independently – “
In the same note she added: “Didn’t address – don’t shake my trust – my business judgment – no reason – this announcement – know in a month – business judgment was correct at this point. Never sure. “
“Make a statement. Faith – Elizabeth, Co.”
The notes, audited by CNBC, show that Holmes is considering numerous decisions related to the company and the board’s statement. Her then COO and friend Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani is mentioned only once: “Balwani – has stopped submitting Edison – by others”
The Edison refers to the company’s blood testing technology.
When asked about these notes, another Theranos employee told CNBC: “Elizabeth saw herself as the brand and the driving force behind the company. She wasn’t one to be manipulated by Sunny or anyone. This attitude even continued when Sunny left the company in 2016. “.”
Holmes’ attorneys did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment. Holmes and Balwani face 20 years imprisonment for fraud and conspiracy. Holmes’ trial began last month. The trial against Balwani will not begin until next year.
Part of Holmes’ defense strategy, it is expected that one of their biggest mistakes as CEO was trusting Balwani, according to the defense opening statements. Unsealed court records also claim that Holmes could claim that sexual and psychological abuse by Balwani affected her mental state and decision-making at Theranos. Balwani firmly rejects the allegations.
In the notes to himself, Holmes also referred to former Secretary of State George Shultz, who was on the board. Shultz’s grandson, Tyler, worked at Theranos and became one of the earliest whistleblowers.
On April 29, 2015, Holmes wrote, “All day counseling – EAH call – talk George off the cliff …” Although it’s not clear what she meant, Tyler Shultz had his grandfather according to Carreyrou’s book, “Bad Blood.” Warned of potential corporate fraud. “Tyler Shultz is set to testify on behalf of the government. George Shultz died earlier this year.
In another note to himself, written in April 2015, Holmes recorded her thoughts for a presentation on Theranos. She points out that her company “had legal success in Arizona” and “Started – Vision – Changing the World.” Access to health care. Reduce costs.
But Holmes also recalled: “Fudge it – if I don’t understand – want to be cleared – stop – explore – reserve – can make it”
When Holmes was in the media spotlight, she was interviewed regularly on numerous television programs.
In a note to herself on October 17, 2015, she wrote about two appearances that year on CNBC in which she was interviewed by Jim Cramer and Andrew Ross Sorkin. Holmes wrote: “Certain platforms – so fabulous – normal people … (Cramer) – Sorkin – crazy man – tough”
That wasn’t the only reference to journalists.
Holmes also wrote about Carreyrou, Gerard Baker, editor of the Wall Street Journal, and Dennis Berman, then editor of money and investments for the Journal.
In another note, Holmes wrote: “Very productive – CBS this morning producers, interview on Friday”
In one of the more cryptic notes, Holmes wrote:
“Really smart people picked Mado up, not you”
This notice was discussed extensively on Carreyrou’s “Bad Blood: The Final Chapter” podcast on September 8th. Carreyrou said it appears to be referring to convicted fraudster Bernie Madoff.
Holmes’ description of becoming Jobs in 2015 followed text messages between her and Balwani the previous year. The New Yorker was preparing an article on Theranos in 2014, and Balwani’s text messages to Holmes received by CNBC indicated he was ready to step back to emphasize her success.
“Would you like New Yorker to say that hiring you was critical to Theranos’ success,” wrote Holmes Balwani. “If it takes something away from you, then no. Maybe there is a better way, ”replied Balwani.
Holmes described how Theranos should be portrayed in the press and wrote to Balwani that both would find out: “We decide together what sounds best.”