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Most people think of the two Steves, Wozniak and Jobs, as the co-founders of Apple, but in doing so they forget about Ron Wayne, who at one time owned 10 percent of Apple. Wayne didn’t get rich off his Apple stock, however; he sold his 10 percent stake for just $2,300.
Earlier this week, Wayne and Wozniak appeared on Bloomberg discussing the early days of Apple and the resignation of Steve Jobs. Originally, Wayne was brought in for only one reason: to mediate between Wozniak and Jobs, who both owned 45 percent of the company.
According to Wayne, “He [Jobs] had a modest disagreement with Steve Wozniak over some philosophical issue, and I happened to be there at the time. We had a conversation in which, successfully, I was able to get the issue resolved. At the moment, Steve Jobs was very impressed with that bit of diplomacy and suggested immediately that we form a company with he and Wozniak each having 45 percent and myself having 10 percent as a philosophical tie-breaker in the case of any disputes in the future.”
However, just 12 days after Apple was formed in 1976, Wayne sold his stake for $800, and received an additional $1,500 later that year in exchange for forfeiting any claims against the company. If he had held that 10 percent stake until today, it would have been worth more than $35 billion today.
Wayne feared two things: the risk involved, and also ending up as a paper pusher. He said, “I could see myself looking ahead in the future as leading a major office in the back of the company shuffling papers for the rest of my life. That wasn’t exactly the future I had in mind for myself.”
In terms of the risk, Wayne is much older than either Jobs or Wozniak (he was termed “more of a mature adult mentality” during the interview, by Wozniak. In 1976, Wayne would have been 42 (he’s 77 now), while Jobs was 21 (he’s 56 now) and Wozniak was 26 (he’s 61 now).
As the venture was originally a partnership, Wayne would have been responsible for debt of the partnership, and he had the most assets, at the time. Wozniak added, “I figured it was because we were getting parts on credit, building the computers with no money, and selling them for cash to pay off the credit. If anything fell through in that plan Steve Jobs had no savings account or money or friends or relatives with money, and neither did I, so our adult supervision, Ron, might be on the hook for the money. I thought that might have scared him off, that he was taking a majority of the risk and he only got 10 percent.”
That said, according to Wikipedia, Jobs repeatedly tried to lure Wayne back to Apple. He never succeeded, and despite everything, Wayne still says he doesn’t regret his decision to back out of Apple.
Youu can watch the interview in the sidebar.