Bad Blood

(Axel Boer) #1

not only more convenient, but faster and cheaper. She brought along
one of her black-and-white devices to demonstrate how it worked.

The presentation had a strong impact on Larree Renda, Safeway’s
executive vice president. Renda’s husband was battling lung cancer.
His blood had to be tested frequently so that doctors could adjust his
drug regimen. Each blood draw was an exercise in torture because his
veins were collapsing. Theranos’s fingerprick system would be a
godsend for him, she thought.

Renda, who had started out at Safeway at age sixteen as a part-time
bagger and worked her way up the corporate ladder to become one of
Burd’s most trusted executives, could see that her boss was also very
impressed. The Theranos proposition dovetailed perfectly with his
wellness philosophy and offered a way to improve the supermarket
chain’s stagnating revenues and razor-thin profit margins.

Before long, Safeway too signed a deal with Theranos. Under the
agreement, it loaned the startup $30 million and pledged to undertake
a massive renovation of its stores to make room for sleek new clinics
where customers would have their blood tested on the Theranos

Burd was over the moon about the partnership. He saw Elizabeth as
a precocious genius and treated her with rare deference. Normally
loath to leave his office unless it was absolutely necessary, he made an
exception for her, regularly driving across the bay to Palo Alto. On one
occasion, he arrived bearing a huge white orchid. On another, he
brought her a model of a private jet. Her next one, he predicted, would
be real. Burd was aware of Theranos’s parallel discussions with
Walgreens. Elizabeth told him his company would be the exclusive
purveyor of Theranos blood tests in supermarkets, while Walgreens
would be granted exclusivity in drugstores. Neither company was
thrilled with the arrangement, but both saw it as better than missing
out on a huge new business opportunity.

BACK IN CHICAGO, Hunter’s efforts to get Van den Hooff to take his

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