Apple Founding Contract Job Signed Could Sell for $150,000

Apple Computer Document
Signatures on a contract establishing the Apple Computer Company. Source: Sotheby's via Bloomberg

On April 1, 1976, Steve Jobs got together with Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne to draft a three-page contract that established Apple Computer Co.

Next month, the contract, with the three founding partners’ signatures, hits the auction block in New York. Estimated to bring $100,000 to $150,000, the agreement is one of the highlights of Sotheby’s Dec. 13 books and manuscripts sale.

“This is a foundation document in terms of financial history, social history and technological history,” said Richard Austin, the head of books and manuscripts at Sotheby’s in New York.

The contract was initially owned by Wayne, who met Jobs while working at Atari Inc. Wozniak, a friend of Jobs, worked at Hewlett-Packard Co. Jobs enlisted Wayne to persuade Wozniak to join Apple. His success in doing so earned Wayne a 10 percent share in the new company.

On April 12, Wayne withdrew as partner. The move is documented by a County of Santa Clara statement and an amendment to the contract, both of which are part of the Sotheby’s lot. Wayne received $800 for relinquishing his 10 percent ownership of Apple, according to the document. He subsequently received another payment of $1,500, according to Sotheby’s.

The consigner bought the documents in the mid-1990s from a manuscript dealer who had acquired them from Wayne, Austin said.

Apple Finished

“It was right before Jobs rejoined Apple,” he said. “At the time, everyone thought that Apple was pretty much finished.”

Jobs’s death at 56 on Oct. 5 was worldwide news, quickly followed by Walter Isaacson’s best-selling biography. That’s part of the reason why the owner is selling the documents.

“With everything in the news, this seems to be the time to do it,” Austin said.

Based on Apple’s market capitalization today, Wayne’s 10 percent stake would be valued at almost $35 billion.

In an Oct. 7 interview with Bloomberg, Wayne, 77, called Wozniak and Jobs “intellectual giants,” but “also felt it was going to be something of a rollercoaster,” adding, “If I’d stayed with them, I was going to wind up the richest man in the cemetery.”

(Katya Kazakina is a reporter for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)

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