- The Dropout -Elizabeth Holmes & Sunny Balwani's Relationship Timeline Is Complicated
At the heart of Elizabeth Holmes' scam on The Dropout is a love story — if you want to call the romance between Elizabeth and Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani a love story, that is. By the end of the third episode of Hulu's true crime podcast adaptation The Dropout, Elizabeth and her significantly older boyfriend's worst fight has ended with Elizabeth covered in green juice, and Sunny investing $20 million in her company in order to keep his girlfriend's failing, fraudulent company Theranos afloat.
Is this relationship toxic? Yeah, that word doesn't really even scratch the surface of what was going on between Elizabeth and Sunny...according to the show, at least.
Yet in real life, Elizabeth and Sunny's relationship was dramatic. Despite the show's embellishments for the sake of entertainment, the big details of Elizabeth and Sunny's relationship are depicted accurately. After all, when a romance ends with both parties in the court room on wire fraud charges and beyond, there's bound to be some crazy stuff along the way. Here's a brief timeline of this couple's relationship.
2002: Elizabeth and Sunny Meet
Just as depicted in the show, Elizabeth met Sunny when she was on a post-high school immersion trip to Beijing through Stanford University. She was 18, and he was 37. According to Johny Carreyou’s Bad Blood, a book about the fall of Theranos, Elizabeth's mother claimed that Sunny helped Elizabeth cope when the other students bullied her.
At the time, Sunny was a software engineer who had previously worked as the president of a startup called CommerceBid.com before it was acquired by Commerce One. Months after Sunny cashed out for $40 million, the company went under. He took Elizabeth under his wing as his mentee.
2005: Elizabeth and Sunny Move In Together
Elizabeth dropped out of Stanford her sophomore year, and in 2003 founded "Real-Time Cures" in Palo Alto, later dubbed Theranos. At some point during the early days of her company, she and Sunny began living together — however, little is known about their relationship as the two had kept it under wraps. However, it's possible these two weren't quite as covert as they thought, as in the HBO documentary The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, employees of Theranos claimed they knew that Elizabeth and Sunny were together, despite the couple not speaking of their relationship publicly.
2009: Sunny Joins Theranos
In 2009, Sunny invested $13 million into Theranos. According to a court testimony obtained by the podcast The Dropout, Sunny called the investment a "personal loan" that was "interest free."
"It was a good faith loan," he explained.
Following his investment, Sunny joined Theranos formally, and was eventually named COO and president. However, he wasn't exactly beloved by Theranos employees. Theranos employees didn't trust Sunny, who had no medical background, and didn't like his management style. He was described by CBS News as Elizabeth's "enforcer" and would fire people on the spot.
2015: Theranos Falls
In October 2015, John Carreyrou publishes an article for The Wall Street Journal which accuses Theranos of misrepresenting the tests it runs on "The Edison," the device that Elizabeth and her company claims can test for a wide range of things with just a single drop of blood. Except, according to The Wall Street Journal, it was bogus, and Theranos was testing most of its blood on industry-standard machines purchased from other companies. Theranos became the subject of a multitude of lawsuits and, in 2016, Elizabeth and Sunny were banned by United States regulators from conducting blood testing for at least two years.
2016: Sunny "Retires"
While Sunny claimed it was his decision to step away from the company, others claimed he was fired from Theranos after Elizabeth needed a fresh slate following the allegations.
2018-2019: Elizabeth and Sunny Are Charged, and Elizabeth Finds New Love
Investigations into Theranos led to Elizabeth and Sunny being charged with wire fraud and conspiracy charges. Both pled not guilty. Around this time, however, Elizabeth was already in a new relationship, with hospitality heir Billy Evans. The couple met at a party in 2017, per ELLE, and were later spotted at Burning Man in 2018, just days before Theranos was shuttered for good. Elizabeth and Billy married in a secret wedding in 2019, and soon after she became pregnant with their first child.
2021: Elizabeth Accuses Sunny of Abuse
After her trial was derailed by COVID-19 and Elizabeth's pregnancy, Elizabeth took the stand in 2021, where she accused her ex of control, manipulation, and abuse. She told the court, "He felt like I came across as a little girl and thought I needed to be more serious and more pointed."
Sunny's lawyers vehemently denied her accusations. However, when asked, Elizabeth confirmed that Sunny did not attempt to get her to lie to investors about the true nature of Theranos.
Elizabeth was found guilty on three counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. She is due to be sentenced in September and faces up to 20 years in prison for each count. As for Sunny, he will take the stand in March 2022 — the very same month The Dropout drops on Hulu.