Shaping Opinion
Shaping Opinion
Ken Auletta: The Theranos Story
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Ken Auletta: The Theranos Story

Journalist Ken Auletta joins Tim to talk about the story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos from the perspective as the reporter who helped introduce the woman and the company to the world.  In December 2014, Ken was one of the first to conduct in-depth interviews with all of the major players at Theranos and their booming start-up company. Little did he or anyone know at the time how the Theranos story would unfold.  Ken talks about his coverage of Elizabeth Holmes in The New Yorker and the story that unfolded. https://traffic.libsyn.com/secure/shapingopinion/Ken_Auletta_-_Theranos_auphonic.mp3 If you were to conduct an Internet search of Elizabeth Holmes today, you’d learn that one of the terms that often accompanies the 39-year-old’s name is “disgraced Theranos CEO.” This is the result of the story we are about to tell. At the moment, she is appealing her federal conviction for fraud that was committed while she led Theranos, that had promised a revolutionary new way to conduct the full range of blood tests. Her story gave us a glimpse as to some of the inner workings of Silicon Valley. Homes now has to serve an 11-year prison sentence because a jury found her guilty of four counts of fraud and conspiracy against company investors. They believed in her promise to change the way blood could be collected and tested, and in turn, transform healthcare. That’s where we are now. But the story started almost 20 years ago when Holmes dropped out of Stanford University. She was only 19 years old then. She left Stanford to start Theranos. Almost from the start, the company had attracted lots of money from some extremely influential investors. Holmes herself had the kind of magnetism the media likes. She was young and smart. She was a really effective speaker and salesperson. And she seemed to have a sense of personal branding long before that became a thing. She patterned herself after Apple founder and tech pioneer Steve Jobs. She wore black turtlenecks, almost exclusively. She adopted a slow, deliberate and deep speaking style that at times was almost hypnotic. She created a media persona that had others characterizing her as the female Steve Jobs. This was no coincidence, of course. It was all calculated. She was rewarded with an avalanche of positive media coverage. Elizabeth Holmes graced just about every major business magazine cover. She was billed as “the world’s youngest self-made woman billionaire.” She was said to be worth $4.5 billion. Her company – Theranos – at its peak, was valued at $10 billion. Some of its well-known investors were Larry Ellison, who founded Oracle Corporation, and media titan Rupert Murdoch. Her advisors and board of directors were the stuff of envy for any company. Names like Henry Kissinger, the former U.S. Secretary of State. John Mattis, the decorated and now retired U.S. Marine general. George Schultz, another revered former U.S. Secretary of State. William Perry, a former U.S. Secretary of Defense, and others. So, how could a company so well positioned for success fail? And not only fail, but for the reasons it did? One person who’s given these questions more thought than most is journalist Ken Auletta. He wrote one of the most comprehensive stories about Homes for The New Yorker in December 2014. Links Blood, Simpler, By Ken Auletta, The New Yorker Hot Startup Theranos Has Struggled With Its Blood-Test Technology, by John Carreryrou, Wall Street Journal Elizabeth Holmes: The hyptnoic tale of the rise and fall of Theranos, New Scientist How Theranos Misled Me, Fortune Elizabeth Holmes sentenced: how politics, celebrity and big pharma collided in trial of the century, Yahoo! News The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, HBO About this Episode’s Guest Ken Auletta Ken Auletta launched the Annals of Communications column for The New Yorker magazine in 1992. He is the author of twelve books,

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Shaping Opinion
Shaping Opinion
The Shaping Opinion podcast helps you see through the spin. It reveals things you may not know, and it exposes other things some may want to keep hidden. Its focus is on how your thoughts and attitudes are influenced to create change in the culture, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.
Host Tim O’Brien – author, senior media advisor and veteran damage control expert – empowers you with a fresh perspective. He comfortably takes you inside trending issues, stories and to the people who unravel it all through deep-dive conversations. After decades in handling high stakes and complex crisis management situations, Tim probes to uncover what’s real and what matters, and what will shape the future. Watch or listen every Monday wherever you get your podcasts.