Today in Apple history: Apple co-founder quits and cashes in his stake for $800

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Ron Wayne: today, and when he co-founded Apple in 1976
Ron Wayne today and when he co-founded Apple in 1976.
Photo: Ron Wayne

April12 April 12, 1976: Apple’s third co-founder, a former Atari colleague of Steve Wozniak’s named Ron Wayne, cashes in his Apple shares for just $800.

Wayne, who owns a 10 percent stake in the company, throws in the towel after worrying that he doesn’t have the time or energy to properly invest in Apple. He later receives an extra $1,500 check to seal the deal. When he cashes it, he loses out on an investment worth billions.

The richest man in the cemetery

Ron Wayne drew Apple's first corporate logo.
Ron Wayne drew Apple’s first corporate logo. He tried to include his signature as part of the design, but Steve Jobs made him remove it.
Image: Apple

“I was 40 and these kids were in their 20s,” Wayne told Cult of Mac, referring to Wozniak and Steve Jobs. “They were whirlwinds — it was like having a tiger by the tail. If I had stayed with Apple I probably would have wound up the richest man in the cemetery.”

Wayne made several contributions to Apple. He drew the company’s first logo, a woodcut-style depiction of Sir Isaac Newton sitting beneath a tree with a solitary apple dangling over his head. Around the border, Wayne printed a quotation from William Wordsworth’s The Prelude: “A mind forever wandering through strange seas of thought, alone.” (The logo later got replaced by the iconic Apple emblem we see today, designed by Rob Janoff.)

Wayne also wrote up the first contract in Apple’s history, solidifying what all three co-founders would do. Wozniak was to be in charge of electrical engineering, Jobs was responsible for marketing, and Wayne would oversee mechanical engineering and documentation.

The three co-founders got on well, although Wayne was considerably closer to Woz than he was to Jobs. He described Wozniak as “the most gracious man I’ve ever met in my life. His personality was contagious.”

Wayne found Jobs tougher to deal with.

“He was a very focused fellow,” Wayne told me. “You never wanted to be between him and where he wanted to go, or you’d find footprints on your forehead. To put it simply, if you had your choice between Steve Jobs and an ice cube, you’d nuzzle up to the ice cube for warmth. But that’s what it took for him to turn Apple into what it became.”

Ron Wayne: No regrets

Apple's founding contract, with the signatures of Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ron Wayne.
Apple’s founding contract, with the signatures of Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ron Wayne.
Image: Ron Wayne

To Wayne’s absolute credit, he never showed any sign of regretting his decision.

When Apple went public in December 1980, both Jobs and Woz became instant millionaires. Wayne fared less well financially, but got on with his life without complaining.

“The reason I didn’t is very simple,” Wayne told me. “Should I make myself sick over the whole thing, in addition to everything else that’s going on? It didn’t make any sense. Just pick yourself up and move on. I didn’t want to waste my tomorrows bemoaning my yesterdays. Does this mean I’m unemotional and don’t feel the pain? Of course not. But I handle it by going on to the next thing. That’s all any of us can do.”

Years later, after Jobs returned to Apple and started to turn it around, he invited Wayne to attend a presentation in San Francisco showing off some new Macs. Wayne received first-class plane tickets, was met at the airport by Jobs’ chauffeur, and was put up in a luxury room at the Mark Hopkins Hotel.

After the conference, Jobs, Wozniak and Wayne ate a long lunch at Apple’s cafeteria and reminisced about old times.