Apple’s 3rd Co-Founder Ron Wayne Reveals How He Threw Away Billions In His New Autobiography

Apple’s 3rd Co-Founder Ron Wayne Reveals How He Threw Away Billions In His New Autobiography

You don’t hear all that much about Apple’s third founder, Ronald Wayne, and for good reason: he sold his stake in Apple just twelve days after the company was founded. It’d be worth $35 billion today. You might wonder what is going on in the head of a guy who made a blunder like that. Well, Wayne would like to tell you in his new autobiography, and… surprise… he doesn’t think he made a mistake at all!

Wayne, now 77, worked with Jobs and Wozniak at Atari before the trio left to work on the first Apple computer. He is credited with drawing up the first Apple logo, but he wasn’t part of the group for long before he left his partners to it.

Why? Well, unlike Jobs and Wozniak, Wayne had personal assets that could have been seized by potential creditors, and so after just a 12 days – yes, days! — Wayne left Apple. He sold his 10% stake in the company for just $800. Today, that 10% stake would be worth a whopping $35 billion.

Apple’s 3rd Co-Founder Ron Wayne Reveals How He Threw Away Billions In His New Autobiography

Jobs tried to tempt Wayne back, according to Macworld, but Wayne decided to pursue a career in scientific research and building gambling machine instead. The description for Adventures of an Apple Founder reads:

“In the spring of 1976 while working as chief draftsman and product development engineer at the video game maker Atari, Ron assisted a co-worker with the subtle intricacies of forming a small business. It was with Ron’s natural sensibilities, experiences, and skills honed over a lifelong career in many disciplines that he offered himself openly as a resource to two much-younger entrepreneurs: Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. These same traits would drive Ron’s decision to leave a short time later.”

If you missed it, be sure to check out Wayne’s interview, along with Wozniak, for Bloomberg, in which the pair recollect the early days at Apple.

You can download the book now from the iTunes Store for $9.99, or from the Kindle Store for $11.65.

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  • Munas

    Typo in title.

  • TheEndre

    Hi Killian,
    You sound like a smart person with a precise knowledge of the future, and I’m sure you must already have made a fortune on your investments. Care to share some investment tips?

  • Barriguita

    LOL! Owned! haha! :)

  • francois swanepoel

    g eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek

  • AIA17

    Who is to say if things would have been different had he stayed. To say billions were thrown away, who knows. He could have stayed and the company went south. Things happen for a reason and to look back is just foolish.

  • MarinaBelt

    really awesome I just got a $829.99 iPad2 for only $103.37 and my mom got a $1499.99 HDTV for only $251.92, they are both coming with USPS tomorrow. I would be an idiot to ever pay full retail prices at places like Walmart or Bestbuy. I sold a 37″ HDTV to my boss for $600 that I only paid $78.24 for. I use BidsNéw.com

  • Sam Parmenter

    Of course its a mistake if you take the view that a decision is neither right nor wrong until it is proven either way in the distant future. 

    At the time, he made the right decision and for every person like him who would have made billions eventually, there will be literally millions who would have lost everything. Im sure that there would have been numerous other situations between then and now which would have made him sell his share in the company anyway.

    There was a recent interview with him and Wozniak and he said that he realised that both of them were genius’ and that he couldn’t really bring that much to the table at that point. As you say, he was at massive risk as well. 

    Good decision at the time and I think that he is getting by ok even without apples billions.

  • Steven Zahl

    Billions just transferred.  Not wasted.

  • Mark Davidson

    Billions presume that Ron Wayne would have held onto his 10% share of Apple from 1976 to 2011. No one could have predicted that Apple would have survived the ’90s much less have revolutionized the mobile phone and music industries a decade later.

    In 1976, no one could have had the forward thinking to imagine a vast public network of computers interlinking consumers with commerce or networked computers so small, they could fit in one’s pocket. In April 1976, Apple was just an idea and a board. In May 1976, Apple Computer Company was selling those boards to the Byte Shop. 50 of them. To be placed inside wooden boxes.

    HP had turned Steve Wozniak down the month before the original partnership agreement had been drafted. He had given his employers first right of refusal on the Apple I. Commodore a few months later turned the Woz down on the Apple II.

    When Ron Wayne parted ways with the Apple Computer Company–before Apple Computer Inc. or several months before venture funding was acquired–Apple was just an idea that carried personal liability for the partners. Ron Wayne was the only of the three original founders to have had any assets.

    In truth, had Ron stayed with Apple, he probably would have walked away with 10 of millions of dollars but certainly not anywhere close to hundreds of millions much less tens of billions.

    I can’t imagine Ron Wayne would walk away from 10 of millions of dollars (My guess would be around $15-25m) if he thought Apple would eventually become that successful and go public. However, no one could have predicted that in April 1976. Not Ron Wayne, not HP, and not Commodore.

About the author

Killian BellKillian Bell is a freelance writer based in the UK. He has an interest in all things tech, but most enjoys covering Apple, anything mobile, and gaming. You can follow him on Twitter via @killianbell, or through his website.

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