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The rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes, the disgraced CEO of Theranos

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Elizabeth Holmes, the convicted founder and CEO of Theranos, is set to serve her prison sentence after being found guilty of fraud charges and being sentenced to 11 years in November 2022. Holmes turned herself in at a federal prison camp in Bryan, Texas, located 95 miles outside of Houston, on Tuesday, May 30. Her imprisonment follows her initial conviction in January 2022 for defrauding investors.

Holmes, who had given birth to her second child, had sought to remain free while appealing her case. However, the judge denied her request to delay her sentencing, leading to her surrender. Holmes continues to attract media attention, particularly due to the scripted miniseries “The Dropout,” starring Amanda Seyfried, which depicts the rise and fall of Holmes’ fraudulent blood sampling company.

Her journey began when Holmes, a Stanford sophomore at the age of 19, founded Theranos with the goal of developing a revolutionary device capable of conducting a wide range of healthcare tests with just a small amount of blood. By 2010, Theranos had received over $92 million in venture capital, turning Holmes into a Silicon Valley sensation. She was hailed as the youngest self-made female billionaire by Forbes in 2014 and featured on various prestigious magazine covers.

Holmes started emulating the late Apple founder Steve Jobs, adopting his signature black turtlenecks and speaking in a deep baritone voice, a departure from her natural tone. However, as scrutiny surrounding her company grew, doubts were raised about the authenticity of Theranos’ device and the accuracy of the lab results. Entrepreneur Richard Fuisz and Stanford professor Phyllis Gardner joined forces to investigate the truth behind Theranos, eventually catching the attention of journalist John Carreyrou, who exposed the company’s fraudulent practices in 2016.

In 2018, authorities charged Holmes and former Theranos president Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani with multiple counts of fraud. In January 2022, Holmes was found guilty on four counts of fraud. The story of Theranos and Holmes has been extensively covered in nonfiction works like Carreyrou’s book “Bad Blood” and the HBO documentary “The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley.”

Despite stepping down as CEO of Theranos, Holmes’ personal life took a positive turn. She got married to William Evans, an heir to the Evans Hotel Group, in a private ceremony in 2019. The couple resided in San Francisco and welcomed their first child in July 2021.

Following her conviction, Holmes faced a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and hefty fines. Ultimately, she received a sentence of 11 years and three months. Holmes tearfully addressed the court during her sentencing, expressing regret and acknowledging the pain caused by her actions. Despite her appeal, she was required to report to prison by May 30, 2023.

Meanwhile, Sunny Balwani, Holmes’ former boyfriend and Theranos president, appeared in court separately and was found guilty on all 12 criminal charges. He received a sentence of 13 years in prison.

The downfall of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos serves as a cautionary tale and has inspired discussions about gender dynamics, technology, and business ethics. Through various media adaptations, such as the scripted Hulu series “The Dropout,” the public is gaining insight into the decisions made during Theranos’ rise and subsequent fall.


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