Hulu’s The Dropout premiered this week. In this adaptation of the Elizabeth Homes story, Amanda Seyfried as Holmes and actor Naveen Andrews play the role of Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, the much older ex-boyfriend of the founder of Theranos. Holmes hired Balwani as president of her company and then COO before the very public crash.
The great promise of Theranos was that the new technology the company would develop would revolutionize blood testing in the medical industry. They raised billions of dollars and got all the hype. The only problem was that none of the technology worked and they had to tell increasingly elaborate lies to cover their tracks.
While many people focus on Holmes and her iconic black turtleneck, Balwani has just as much to do with this story. Here’s what you need to know about him
Where does Sunny Balwani come from?
Balwani was born in Pakistan and moved to India with his family before eventually emigrating to the US. He studied information systems at the University of Texas at Austin and eventually founded a company called CommerceBid. Before that he worked for Microsoft.
How did Sunny Balwani get rich?
Commercebid was bought by another business development software company called Commerce One, and in 2000 Balwani sold his shares of the latter and increased his net worth by $40 million. Commerce One then went bankrupt.
How did Sunny Balwani meet Elizabeth Holmes?
Balwani is 19 years older than Holmes and met her when she was only 18, during a Mandarin summer program in China, shortly before attending Stanford as a student. They had started a romantic relationship by the time Theranos was formed in 2003.
In her trial, Holmes made a number of allegations against Balwani, including sexual assault. She claims he told her he wanted to “kill the person” she was and turn her into a “new Elizabeth”. He has vehemently denied all these allegations.
How long was Sunny Balwani president of Theranos?
He joined the company in 2009 and left the company in 2016 after a scathing series of reports by John Carreyrou in The Wall Street Journal began to dismantle the reality of Theranos operations, beginning in 2015. Balwani has no background in biology or medicine. , but he invested $12 million in the company around the time he joined, as the company struggled for funding. As president and then COO, he was known for firing people and lashing out when tests failed in the lab, a former employee told CBS.
Carreyou’s reports and eventual 2018 book Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup claimed that Theranos lied about their Edison device yielding accurate results, giving misleading tests to investors, and using machines already commercially available for the most of their tests.
What charges is Sunny Balwani facing?
In March 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed civil charges against Balwani, as well as against Holmes and Theranos, for “mass fraud”. They were charged with stealing $700 million in investments based on “false statements about the company’s technology, business and financial performance”.
In June of that year, the former couple were both charged with nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. They were tried separately and Holmes settled one of her cases for $500,000; in January 2022, she was found guilty of four counts of investor defrauding and could face 20 years in prison. She did not blame Balwani, or claim that he forced her to make false statements to investors.
Where is Sunny Balwani now?
No one knows for sure; he was due to begin his trial in early March. His trial could change the last sentence of Holmes, who is currently out on bail.
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This post Who is Sunny Balwani and where is he now?
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