While Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak are widely celebrated as the founders of the tech behemoth Apple Inc., Ronald Wayne was a little-known partner who once owned 10 percent of Apple Computer Company. That is, before Wayne sold his share for $800, when the company was eleven days old.
Today, Apple Inc. has a market capitalization of about $350 billion, and Wayne’s share could have been worth over $2 billion, according to Sotheby’s, which is auctioning the founding documents of Apple Computer on Dec. 13. The auctioneer estimates the documents are worth $100,000 to $150,000.
Wayne, who later received $1,500 more, was a “father figure” to Jobs while they worked at the game company Atari, according to Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs. Jobs reportedly brought Wayne, now 77, to Apple to be a tie-breaker when he and Wozniak disagreed.
“They were absolute whirlwinds aside from the fact they were intellectual giants, which I recognized, and it was like having a tiger by the tail; you can’t hang on and you can’t let go,” Wayne told Bloomberg Television in October. “If I’d stayed with them, I was going to wind up the richest man in the cemetery, so I figured it was best for me to go off and do other things.”
“They understood why I was pulling out, I had other interests and there was a modest question of liability, since it was a company and not a corporation, that if the thing blew up, I was going to be left to the $15,000 obligation that I had no idea how I would satisfy,” Wayne told Bloomberg.
Sotheby’s declined to provide details on the previous owners of the documents but noted they were acquired through University Archives after belonging to Wayne.