2021 Man of the Year: Sunny Balwani

Getty Images
December 24, 2021

They say that karma is a bitch, and Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani would probably agree with that. For 12 years the former Microsoft exec had it all. He was president of a biomedical company worth $10 billion. He traveled first class around the world. And his girlfriend was not only whip smart but 20 years younger—they met in China when he was 38 and she was… 18.

But things came to an abrupt end in 2016. There was bad blood between them—quite literally. Balwani’s girlfriend was none other than Elizabeth Holmes, the deep-throated founder and CEO of Theranos. As everyone knows (or at least everyone who saw the HBO documentary The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley), the company claimed to have built a machine that could instantly analyze blood with a mere prick of the finger. It didn’t. And now Holmes and Balwani are being tried for securities fraud, misleading investors, and cheating them out of approximately $700 million.

While Balwani is set to appear in court next year, Holmes’s trial is happening now, and the defendants’ professional and personal relationship has spilled out into the public in the form of text messages, courtesy of the prosecutors.

"My heart is missing its heartbeat," he writes. "Ditto," she writes back. "Missing my heartbeat," he says. "Ditto times a million," she replies. (We sure hope Balwani had a cardiologist check out his arrhythmia.)

"Your presence on earth is proof of God’s presence," he tells her. She sends him a quote from Maya Angelou: "In all the world, there is no heart for me like yours. In all the world, there is no love for you like mine." And he knows just what to say back: "I agree. There is no love for me like yours. Which is why it's hard to breath without your breath near me."

In short, Balwani was not just a master sweet-talker. He was a love guru and poet the likes we haven’t seen since Kahlil Gibran.

As the company came apart, so did their love. "You live in my eyes. I see you everywhere," he once told her. But now Holmes says it was her lover who’s to blame. He was everywhere involved in everything—in short, it’s always Sunny in Theranos.

While things ended badly for Balwani, we should never forget the amount of work he put into those texts, which were read aloud to the jury. They are a reminder of what it takes to keep the embers of love burning, the flames of passion alive—at least until your karma runs out and one of you faces the possibility of 20 years in prison.

Congratulations, Sunny Balwani, you are a Washington Free Beacon man of the year.

Published under: Man of the Year