Stock Groups

Elizabeth Holmes wrote personal notes to herself about ‘becoming Steve Jobs’


As the media started comparing Elizabeth Holmes to Steve Jobs, the former Theranos CEO wrote a note to herself that contained three telling words.

According to CNBC documents, Holmes wrote “Becoming Steve Jobs” on April 2, 2015. Holmes had written more than 12 pages of journal-like streams and consciousness writings to Holmes that same year. CNBC received a part of the notes.

The reference to Apple‘s co-founder was among notes that appear to be from a conversation with Theranos counsel David Boies. Holmes also described a company-hired attorney in those notes. Boies spokesperson said that he was on vacation and couldn’t be reached for comment.

Holmes made frequent appearances in the media wearing a black turtleneck that was meant to remind Jobs of his iconic style. He was often her idol. CNBC spoke with a former employee of Theranos who said they had seen a frame photo of Jobs in their office.

Five months after the note to herself, she was formerly dubbed “The Next Steve Jobs” in an Inc. magazine cover story. It began with the words, “You would have to really look hard not to find Steve Jobs in Elizabeth Holmes.”

Banner 3

Holmes was also a dropout of college, just like Jobs. At 19 she left Stanford to open Theranos. With just a finger poke, the technology could run hundreds more blood tests. Her achievement of becoming the youngest self-made female billionaire was a result of raising more than $900 million from sophisticated investors, including Rupert Murdoch and Betsy DeVos.

Her ascent to media darling didn’t last. Inc.’s cover featured her in glowing fashion, but the media spotlight suddenly dwindled. Soon afterward, the Wall Street Journal’s former reporter John Carreyrou published the first investigative article detailing inaccuracies regarding the company’s blood-testing system. This was on October 15.

Two weeks later, Holmes wrote another note to herself: “Point by point refutation statements”

“Fearless transparent nothing to hide”

In a note later that evening, Holmes wrote: “Board statement – independent look at accusations by board – making statements – no independent opinion. Unwise board – enter – without judgement -“

Another line said: “Strategic mistake – WSJ – impression – fight – number accusations – made” 

In what appears to be a response to the Journal’s investigation, Holmes wrote: “Weak accusations – endorses everything – happened – if – true – raise doubt – want – board looks into it – finds nothing to any of it – looked into it – have not looked at it independently – “

In the same note she added: “Haven’t addressed – doesn’t shake my confidence – my business judgement – no reason – this announcement – know a month from now – business judgement correct at the time. Never for sure.”

“Put forth statement. Faith – Elizabeth, co.”

The notes reviewed by CNBC show Holmes deliberating about numerous decisions regarding the company and the board statement. There is only one mention of her COO and boyfriend at the time Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani: “Balwani – stopped submitting Edison – off others”

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

CNBC asked another Theranos employee about this note. “Elizabeth viewed herself as the brand and driving power of the company. Sunny and anyone else did not manipulate her. Sunny left Sunny in 2016 with the same attitude.

CNBC reached out to Holmes’ attorneys for clarification but they did not reply. Holmes and Balwani will spend 20 years prison for wire fraud and conspiracy. Holmes’ trial began last month. Balwani’s trial won’t begin until next year.

According to opening statements, Holmes will defend that her greatest mistake as CEO was trusting Balwani. Holmes could also claim she was subject to sexual abuse by Balwani, according to unopened court documents. Balwani strongly refutes the accusations.

Holmes made reference to George Shultz, former Secretary-of-State who was also on the board. Shultz was the grandson of Tyler Shultz, who worked for Theranos, and later became one among the first whistleblowers.

On April 29, 2015 Holmes wrote “Advice all day – EAH call – talk George off cliff…” While it’s not clear what she meant, Tyler Shultz had warned his grandfather about possible fraud inside the company according to Carreyrou’s book “Bad Blood.” Tyler Shultz should testify in support of the government during the trial.

Holmes also wrote a note in April 2015 to herself, jotting down what she thought was a presentation on Theranos. She points out that her company had “legislative success in Arizona,” and “Started – vision – change world. Health care. Reduce costs Increase efficiency. Min pain…”

But Holmes also reminded herself “Fudge it – if don’t understand – want clarified – stop – explore – reserve done – may get to it”

When Holmes was in the media limelight, she was regularly interviewed on numerous television programs.

A note she left for herself October 17th 2015 included details about her appearances on CNBC that year, in which she was interviewed on two occasions by Andrew Ross Sorkin (Jim Cramer) Holmes wrote, “Certain platforms – so fabulous – regular people… (Cramer) – Sorkin – mad man – tough”

That wasn’t the only reference to journalists.

Holmes wrote another note to herself, referring to Carreyrou and Gerard Baker as editors at large at Wall Street Journal and Dennis Berman, who was the Wall Street Journal’s time money editor.

In another note Holmes wrote: “Very productive – CBS this morning producers, interview on Friday”

In one of the more cryptic notes to herself, Holmes wrote:

“Really smart people picked off mado Not you”

That reference was discussed in detail on Carreyrou’s “Bad Blood: The Final Chapter” podcast on Sept. 8. Carreyrou stated that it seemed the note was about Bernie Madoff, a convicted fraudster.

Balwani and Holmes had exchanged text messages in 2015. Holmes described becoming Jobs in 2015. The New Yorker was working on an article about Theranos. CNBC obtained text messages between Balwani and Holmes that show that he would be willing to let her shine while preparing the article.

Balwani texted Holmes: “Does New Yorker think it was crucial for Theranos success that you were hired?” It doesn’t take anything away from me. Balwani suggested that perhaps there’s a better way.

Holmes texted Balwani to describe how Theranos should look in the press. “We together decide what sound best.”