Wayne Says Founding Apple Like ‘Having a Tiger by the Tail’
Ron Wayne, who gave up his stake in Apple Inc. (AAPL) two weeks after founding it with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in 1976, said he knew the company would be a rollercoaster, and also very successful.
“They were absolute whirlwinds aside from the fact they were intellectual giants, which I recognized, and it was like having a tiger by the tail; you can’t hang on and you can’t let go,” said Wayne, 77, in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “If I’d stayed with them, I was going to wind up the richest man in the cemetery, so I figured it was best for me to go off and do other things.”
Jobs, who passed away Oct. 5 at age 56, started showing off their computers with Wozniak, now 61, at the informal Homebrew Computer Club in 1975. Wayne, a colleague of Jobs at games maker Atari, helped settle an early dispute between the two founders, prompting the younger Steve to offer him a 10 percent stake in the venture to lure him aboard as a “tiebreaker” between the two.
“He had more of a mature, adult mentality and he had strong formulas of how things go and how companies are run and how they go right and how they go wrong,” Wozniak said of Wayne in an Aug. 25 interview with Bloomberg Television after Jobs resigned as chief executive officer. Jobs had introduced Wayne “as a person that we could trust as an intermediary,” Wozniak said.
‘Thrill and Excitement’
“I was very, very happy to participate with him for the thrill and excitement of being part of something that was really possessed of enormous promise and something that I felt was going to be very, very successful,” Wayne said of Jobs. “I also felt it was going to be something of a rollercoaster which, since I was 20 years older than these guys I felt I was perhaps getting a little too old for.”
It was Wayne who drew up the partnership agreement for Apple Computer Co., with the larger shareholders getting 45 percent apiece, he wrote in his autobiography “Adventures of an Apple Founder” published in 2010. The typed agreement had the date April 1, 1976, written by hand with Wozniak’s signature appearing above Jobs, followed by Wayne’s. It was lodged under certificate number 20443 at the registry office of Santa Clara, California the following day, Wayne wrote.
On April 12, less than two weeks after the document was signed with “a totally casually air,” Wayne went back to the registry office and removed his name from the agreement, he wrote. Jobs went on to build Apple into the world’s most valuable technology company, now worth $350 billion.
“They understood why I was pulling out, I had other interests and there was a modest question of liability, since it was a company and not a corporation, that if the thing blew up, I was going to be left to the $15,000 obligation that I had no idea how I would satisfy,” Wayne said in the Bloomberg interview. The failure of his own business venture a few years earlier informed his decision to pull out of Apple, he said.
Jobs himself left Apple in 1985 after a dispute with the board and then-Chief Executive Officer John Sculley. He returned to the company in 1996 after the new company he founded, Next Inc., was bought by Apple.
Upon his return, Jobs unveiled the iMac before introducing the iPod, iPhone and iPad. Those portable consumer products combined now contribute more than 70 percent of Apple’s revenue, prompting it to drop the “Computer” in its name in 2007.
“I got to watch the whole growth in him,” Wozniak said of Jobs in an interview after his death. “Coming from a young kid to starting a company and having success and trying to find ways to manage things and have his own control and power. Going off from the company, coming back very learned, knowledgeable about how to watch the operations.”
Wayne stayed on as an adviser to the company after giving up his stake, helping design its logo and computer cabinets. He described the loss of Jobs as “incalculable.”
“With so much potential ahead of him and so much creativity, we can only imagine what might have come out of his mind had he had the 20 years extra of life that I’ve had.”
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