As you no doubt have heard by now, yesterday Apple's market cap topped $1 trillion for the first time when the company's share price broke $207.05. It's currently trading at $207.27. Apple is the first American company to be worth over $1 trillion. It's the first company in the last 150+ years to hit that milestone without being a state-owned oil company.
Over the years Apple has made a lot of investors A LOT of money. If the company maintains a $1 trillion+ market cap, CEO Tim Cook will earn a stock award bonus that will give him a net worth of $1 billion (up from $800 million). Heck, it's one of the best stocks I've ever personally owned. I bought Apple back in January 2017 at $123 a share, so I've gotten a 68% return on my (very humble) investment in a year and a half. Whenever we talk about the amazing success of Apple, it's a good idea to pour out a little liquor, send positive vibes and say a little prayer for a guy named Ronald Wayne. Ronald is Apple's long-forgotten third founder. At one time, he owned 10% of Apple. That 10% today would be worth $100,000,000,000.
In the early part of 1976, Steve Jobs was toiling away as a lowly technician at Atari while Steve Wozniak worked as an engineer for Hewlett-Packard. At some point early that year, Wozniak built the hardware, operating system and circuit boards for a very basic computer that he would eventually call the Apple 1. It was Jobs who actually suggested the name after returning from a fruit farm where he had subsisted on nothing but apples for more than 10 days straight.
One of Jobs' co-workers at Atari was a man 20 years his senior named Ronald Wayne. Jobs became particularly enamored with Wayne after learning that he had experience starting and running companies. Prior to becoming Atari's Chief Product Engineer, Wayne had run a handful of mildly successful companies in the slot machine industry. When it came time to launch Apple, Wayne was the perfect professional complement to the untested Wozniak and Jobs.
On April 1st, 1976 the Apple Computer Company was founded by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne. In exchange for 10% of the company, Ronald was expected to draw up the partnership documents, write the very first Apple 1 manual and provide a general level of "adult supervision" for the young upstart. He also ended up designing the very first Apple corporate logo:
Giving Up A Fortune
Amazingly, in 1982, just five years after launching the company, Apple earned over $1 billion. By then, both Jobs and Woz were each personally worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
But what happened to Ronald Wayne? He must have made millions as well, right? Wrong. Unfortunately, Ronald Wayne did not stick around long enough to see Apple soar to such great heights. In fact, just 12 days after forming the company with Woz and Jobs, Ronald decided to sell his entire stake back for the measly sum of $800. He ended up receiving an additional $1,500 a few months later that fully relinquished all his future claims against Apple.
$800 + $1,500 = $2,300. That's the same as around $10,000 today.
Why on earth did he sell his stake?
When Jobs, Wayne and Wozniak launched Apple, the type of partnership they formed would hold each founder personally liable for any debts incurred by the company or any of its members. In other words, Wayne could have been on the hook personally for any debts these crazy 20-year-old hippie computer nerds ran up. This may have been a valid concern at the time. Not only did Ronald Wayne already own several other companies and assets that he did not want to risk losing, but he also wasn't exactly confident that two kids with zero business experience, who made a new fangled gadget no one had ever heard of, had a chance in hell at being successful.
It's too bad he was so risk averse because today a 10% stake in Apple would be worth $100 BILLION. Enough to make Ronald Wayne the second richest person on the planet.
So what ended up happening to Ronald Wayne?
After getting paid out of Apple, he went back to work for Atari. He left Atari in 1978 to work at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. He spent some time working for a small electronics company. He later owned a stamp shop. Over the years, Steve Jobs made a handful of attempts to bring Ronald back to Apple, but he resisted every time.
More recently, Ronald wrote a book about the constitution. For the last decade he has been retired and living in a mobile home in rural Nevada. He is not a billionaire. He is not a millionaire. He did not own a single Apple product his entire life until 2011, when a fan gave him a free iPad2 at a tech conference.
What would you have done if you were Ronald Wayne back in 1976? Think you could have had the guts to roll the dice?