How would you feel if you missed out on a business opportunity that could have made you millions or even billions of dollars?
Ronald Wayne was in on the ground floor of what is now the world’s richest company but cashed out early, missing out on a massive financial windfall.
He doesn’t regret it a bit.
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Wayne worked in Nevada’s gaming industry before landing in Silicon Valley in the mid-1970s. There he met two 20-somethings who wanted to launch a new computer company with him.
Their names were Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak and the company was Apple Computer.
“They were taking business computers and converting them into personal computers,” the now 84-year-old Wayne recalled in his modest home in the high desert town of Pahrump, Nev.
Their original deal gave Jobs and Wozniak each a 45 per cent share in the nascent company and Wayne 10 per cent.
A self-taught computer engineer, Wayne had already been burned by start-ups in the past. Add to that, he felt the mercurial behaviour of one of his young partners was cause for concern.
“Wozniak, anyone can get along with,” he said. “I would have had difficulties getting along with Jobs. I could see that from the beginning.”
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After less than a year, he sold his 10 per cent stake in Apple for $800.
“They all understood why I took my name off the contract,” Wayne said. “There was no dispute about it, there was no antagonism.”
Last year, Apple became the first company with a $1 trillion valuation. This week the company’s market cap was nearly $940 billion.
If Wayne had held on to his 10 per cent stake in the company, he’d be worth nearly $94 billion, a net worth that rivals some of the world’s wealthiest people.
He walked away from what would become one of the biggest fortunes in the history of capitalism, but if you’re looking for an ounce of regret in Wayne, you won’t find it.
He says he is totally at peace with his decision to walk away from Apple.
“I’ve never regretted my decision for one moment,” Wayne said. “If I had stayed with them through the Apple corporation phase, I probably would have ended up the richest man in the cemetery.”
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