Ahead of Hulu’s dramatic retelling of the Theranos scandal in ‘The Dropout,’ learn about Sunny Balwani, Elizabeth Holmes’ ex-boyfriend and partner who helped her start the fraudulent tech company.
As Elizabeth Holmes awaits her fate, viewers will see how the disgraced founder of Theranos found herself possibly facing up to 20 years in prison in The Dropout. The Hulu miniseries, premiering on March 3, sees Amanda Seyfried star as Elizabeth, 37, while Naveen Andrews portrays Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, the man who helped co-found the controversial blood-testing tech startup. While Elizabeth has been the face of this scandal – her black turtleneck becoming as visibly recognizable as that of Steve Jobs‘ – Sunny has dodged the spotlight, for the most part. So, who is this man?
Sunny Balwani Is The Co-Founder & Former COO Of Theranos.
As The New York Times noted in Nov. 2021, very little is known about Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani compared to the documentary and podcast series based around Elizabeth and her time with Theranos.
“Sunny Balwani is an extraordinary person,” Jeff Coopersmith, Balwani’s attorney, told ABC News. “He was born in Pakistan to a Hindu family, and eventually, the family had to move to India because being a Hindu in a mostly all-Muslim country of Pakistan was very difficult. When he got to the United States, he literally kissed the ground and studied at the University of Texas, where he got a degree in computer science. Everything he ever did in his life he got through earning it through incredibly hard work. He was the most hard working person pretty much I’ve ever met.”
Sunny Worked In Tech Before Theranos.
Before helping Elizabeth Holmes launch Theranos – a company that promised its machines could run standard blood tests on just a few drops from a finger prick, per The Guardian – Sunny was already involved in the tech world. He was a Northern California sales manager for Microsoft, according to The New York Times. During the early dot-com boom, he joined a startup called CommercBid.com.
CommerceBid built platforms that pit suppliers against each other to drive down costs. It was bought by Commerce One for $225 million. When the dot-com bubble burst, Sunny made out with a reported $40 million. After going back to school, he became the chief operating officer at Theranos.
Sunny Balwani Was Also Charged With Fraud.
In June 2018, Elizabeth and Sunny were indicted on federal wire fraud charges over a multi-million dollar scheme to defund investors, according to CNN. Both pleaded not guilty. In January 2022, a jury found Elizabeth guilty of four of eleven charges – one count of conspiracy to defraud investors and three counts of wire fraud tied to specific investors. She’s acquitted on three charges concerning defrauding patients and one conspiracy charge. The jury was unable to render a verdict on three of the other charges.
Her sentencing was scheduled for September 2022 because Sunny had yet to stand trial for his involvement. Sunny has also been indicted with two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and nine counts of wire fraud.
Balwani’s lawyer argued that his client was innocent because he didn’t make any money during his tenure at Theranos.
“In over 28 years of practicing law, as both a federal prosecutor and a defense attorney, I have never seen a case like this one, where the government brings a criminal prosecution against a defendant who obtained no financial benefit and lost millions of dollars of his own money,” Jeffrey Coopersmith told Vanity Fair. “Mr. Balwani committed no crimes. He did not defraud Theranos investors, who were among the most sophisticated in the world. He did not defraud consumers but instead worked tirelessly to empower them with access to their own health information.”
Sunny Was Romantically Involved With Elizabeth Holmes & She Accused Him Of ‘Abuse’
During her testimony, Elizabeth Holmes said she met Sunny the summer before she started at Stanford. She was 18 at the time, and he was about two decades older – and married. The two began a relationship that would continue through the creation of Theranos. During her testimony, Elizabeth accused Sunny of sexually assaulting her and being controlling in their relationship, according to the Washington Post. Sunny denied these accusations.
He Was Previously Married
Sunny was previously married to Japanese artist Keiko Fujimoto. The two lived in San Francisco before finalizing their divorce in 2002.