Apple shares hit a historic $1 trillion market cap value, becoming the first publicly traded U.S. company to ever reach the milestone. The stock briefly hit the $207.05 per share price that was needed to bring Apple to the $1 trillion mark before retreating.
Owning 10 percent of Apple right now sounds like a dream. But one man actually knows what it’s like to watch that opportunity slip away: Ronald Wayne, the little known third co-founder of Apple.
Wayne joined Apple co-founders Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, who were 21 and 25 at the time, to provide the company with “adult supervision” and to oversee mechanical engineering and documentation, in exchange for a 10 percent stake in the business.
On April 1, 1976, Wayne sat down at his typewriter and drew up an agreement outlining each man’s responsibilities, making his role with Apple official. He also drew the company’s first logo, which was used for less than a year before being replaced by the symbol associated with the company today.
Wayne rapidly grew concerned that any debts incurred by the business would fall on him, personally. Jobs had taken out a $15,000 loan so he could buy supplies to fulfill Apple’s first contract with a Bay Area computer store, The Byte Shop, which had ordered around 100 computers. But The Byte Shop was known for failing to pay its bills and Wayne worried that Apple wouldn’t be able to recoup the money.
While both Jobs and Wozniak were young and broke, Wayne had assets, including a house, and feared that the financial burden would fall on him if the deal went south.
So after spending a mere 12 days with Wozniak and Jobs, Wayne had his name taken off the contract and sold his shares back to his co-founders for $800.
Wayne’s decision to leave the start-up cost him big. Today, a 10 percent stake in Apple would be worth more than $95 billion. That kind of a fortune would make Wayne one of the richest people in the world.
Amazingly, Wayne says he doesn’t regret his decision, mostly because he knows he wouldn’t have thrived at Apple. Wayne felt out of place, like he was “standing in the shadow of intellectual giants.” He said he was 40 back then and they were in their 20s, so surviving with them was a challenge.
The one thing he does regret, however, stems from his time with Apple. Wayne kept his original contract from 1976 for years. Then, in the early 90s, he sold it for $500. In 2011, the same contract was sold at an auction for $1.59 million.