Elizabeth Holmes wrote personal notes on “becoming Steve Jobs”

Elizabeth Holmes, left, and Steve Jobs

CNBC; David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

As the media began to compare Elizabeth Holmes to Steve Jobs, the former CEO of Theranos wrote herself a note containing three revealing words.

“Become Steve jobs -” Holmes wrote on April 2, 2015, according to documents obtained by CNBC. The note was one of more than a dozen pages of diary-type writings that Holmes typed for herself that year. CNBC got some of those tickets.

The reference to the Apple co-founder 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 spokesperson for Boies said he was traveling and could not be reached for comment.

A Jobs biography titled “Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader” by Brent Schlender published the previous month.

Holmes ‘ubiquitous media appearances at the time showed her wearing a black turtleneck meant to evoke Jobs’ iconic look. She often said he was her idol. A former Theranos employee told CNBC he saw a framed photo of Jobs in his office.

Five months after the note to herself, she was previously dubbed “The Next Steve Jobs” on a cover of Inc. magazine. The article began: “You’d have to look hard not to see Steve Jobs in Elizabeth Holmes.

Like Jobs, Holmes dropped out of school. She left Stanford at 19 to start Theranos. The company’s technology promised to perform hundreds of finger-prick blood tests. She was once the youngest self-made billionaire woman, raising more than $ 900 million from sophisticated investors including Rupert Murdoch, the Walton family and Betsy DeVos.

His rise to the media darling did not last. The glowing press suddenly faded that same month, Inc. featured it on its cover. Shortly thereafter, on October 15, 2015, the first report published in a series of investigative articles by former Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou, revealing inaccuracies with the company’s blood testing technology.

Two weeks later Holmes wrote another note to himself: “Point-by-point rebuttal statements”

“Intrepid transparent nothing to hide”

In a note later that evening, Holmes wrote: “Board statement – independent board review of accusations – making statements – no independent opinion. Reckless advice – entering – without judgement – “

Another line read: “Strategic error – WSJ – impression – fight – number accusations – committed”

In what appears to be a response to the Journal’s investigation, Holmes wrote: “Weak accusations – approve of everything – happened – if – true – raises doubt – wants – council examines – finds nothing – examined – did not look independently – “

In the same note, she added: “I did not address – do not shake my confidence – my business judgment – no reason – this announcement – know in a month – correct business judgment at the time. Never with certainty . “

“Turn off the statement. Faith – Elizabeth, co.”

Notes reviewed by CNBC show Holmes deliberating on many decisions regarding the company and the board’s statement. There is only one mention of her COO and her boyfriend at the time, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani: “Balwani – stopped submitting Edison – out of the others”

The Edison refers to the company’s blood testing technology.

Asked about the notes, another Theranos employee told CNBC: “Elizabeth saw herself as the brand and the driving force behind the company. She was not the type to be manipulated by Sunny or anyone. posture 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 in prison for wire fraud and conspiracy. Holmes’ trial began last month. Balwani’s trial will not begin until next year.

Part of Holmes’ defense strategy should be that one of his biggest mistakes as CEO was trusting Balwani, according to opening statements from the defense. Unsealed court documents also allege Holmes could claim that Balwani’s sexual and mental abuse altered his mental state and decision-making at Theranos. Balwani strongly denies the allegations.

In the notes to herself, 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 early whistleblowers.

On April 29, 2015, Holmes wrote “Advice all day – EAH call – talk to George from the cliff …” Although it was not clear what she meant, Tyler Shultz had warned her grand- father against possible fraud within the company, according to Carreyrou’s book “Bad Blood.” Tyler Shultz is expected to testify for the government at the trial. George Shultz passed away earlier this year.

In another note written in April 2015, Holmes wrote down his thoughts for what appears to be a presentation on Theranos. She points out that her company has had “legislative success in Arizona” and that it “started – a vision – a world of change.” Access to health care. Lower the costs. Increase efficiency. Minimal pain … “

But Holmes also remembered “Fudge it – if you don’t understand – want to clarify – stop – explore – book – can make it happen”

When Holmes was in the media spotlight, she was regularly interviewed on numerous television shows.

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: “Some platforms – so fabulous – ordinary people… (Cramer) – Sorkin – a fool – a tough one”

It was not the only reference to journalists.

Holmes also wrote about Carreyrou, Gerard Baker, editor at The Wall Street Journal, and Dennis Berman who at the time was the Journal’s money and investment editor.

In another note, Holmes wrote: “Very productive – CBS This Morning Producers, Interview Friday”

In one of the most enigmatic notes to herself, Holmes wrote:

“Really smart people chose mado Not you”

This reference was discussed in detail on Carreyrou’s “Bad Blood: The Final Chapter” podcast on September 8th. Carreyrou said it appeared the note referred to convicted fraudster Bernie Madoff.

Holmes’ description of becoming Jobs in 2015 follows text messages between her and Balwani the year before. The New Yorker was preparing an article on Theranos in 2014, and Balwani’s text messages to Holmes, obtained by CNBC, indicated that he was ready to take a step back to shine a light on his success.

“Do you want the New Yorker to say that Theranos’ success was to hire you,” Holmes sent Balwani. “If that takes something away from you, then no. Maybe there is a better way to put it,” Balwani replied.

Describing how Theranos should be portrayed in the press, Holmes texted Balwani to tell him the two of them would find out: “Together we decide what sounds best.”


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