Here’s a cautionary tale that should turn you into a hoarder: a contract of a nearly bankrupt tech company in the mid-1990s is now headed for the auction block with a $150,000 price tag. The company is Apple and the document is the tech giant’s founding contract with signatures of Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne — who must be kicking himself at this very moment.
Wayne is considered Apple’s Pete Best, the Beatles’s original drummer. Like Best, Wayne is little remembered for his role in bringing together the two Steves, but will long be known as the man who sold for just a couple thousand dollars stock in the Cupertino, Calif. firm now worth $2 billion. In December, Sotheby’s will put to auction the three-page contract that formally created Apple Computer Co. at an estimated $100,000 to $150,000.
The contract with Jobs’s, Wozniak’s and Wayne’s signatures is described by the auction house as a “foundational document” in financial, social and technology history. Wayne received 10 percent of Apple for getting Wozniak to join Jobs’s new undertaking. Just 11 days after, Wayne withdrew, receiving $800 for his part of Apple, later getting another $1,500.
Wayne sold the document to a manuscript dealer who then sold it during the mid-1990s, a tumultuous time for Apple. “It was right before Jobs rejoined Apple,” Sotheby’s Richard Austin told Bloomberg. Also, the period was marked by a common belief the company was headed for bankruptcy.
Oh, how times have changed. Apple is now regularly worth more than Exxon and Jobs was described as this age’s Edison upon his Oct. 5 death. As for Wayne, Apple’s third founder, he’s 77 and has published an autobiography. Royalties from the book likely won’t amount to the $2 billion lost because of the bone-headed move.