Ron Wayne was a 41-year-old draftsman at Atari when he first met Steve Jobs, and the 21-year-old convinced him to help out with a home computing project. That project, of course, was Apple, and according to the Mercury News, Wayne “designed the company’s original logo, wrote the manual for the Apple I computer, and drafted the fledgling company’s partnership agreement.” Wayne sold back his 10% of Apple after 12 days with the company, recouping $800. Those shares are now worth an estimated $35 billion, but in an interview with Bloomberg News about the passing of his former co-founder, Wayne says he has no real regrets about the cash. In fact, his thoughts on money are remarkably similar to Jobs’.
How similar? Well, the two have pretty much said the exact same thing. Jobs famously told the Wall Street Journal in 1993 that “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.”
In his Bloomberg interview, Wayne said that Jobs and the third Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak, were tireless spark plugs and that he couldn’t keep up. “If I’d stayed with them,” Wayne said, “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.”
Wayne also told a Mercury News reporter who traveled to his small Nevada hometown last year a similar thing:
“I felt certain the company was going to be successful; that wasn’t the question. But how much of a roller coaster was it going to be? I didn’t know that I could tolerate that kind of situation again. I thought if I stayed with Apple I was going to wind up the richest man in the cemetery.”
Wayne is also quoted in the 2004 book, Apple Confidential 2.0, that he “either was going bankrupt or the richest man in the cemetery.”
Has Wayne been co-opting Jobs’ famous quote about being the “richest man in the cemetery?” Or is it possible he told Steve Jobs that when he left Apple in 1976 and that Jobs borrowed it from him?
Either way, after missing out on $34,999,999,200, we think he can have whatever quip or quote he wants.
Watch his interview here. Wayne comes of as an astoundingly nice and grounded man, and he is a lesson on how to handle financial disappointment with cool perspective.
UPDATE: We got in contact with Ron Wayne, and he says he can’t pinpoint where the phrase “richest man in the cemetery” came from. “It is possible that I used it in my discussions with both of the Steves at the time I bailed out,” he says, “But to be equally candid, at 77 I have difficulty remembering what I did or said yesterday–much less, thirty-five years ago. Also, I hadn’t heard of Steve Jobs’ use of this phrase or anything like it since then.”
He also wanted to clarify a widely-held misconception about his relationship with Apple. He says:
The division of percentage was fixed, without dispute or further discussion, by Steve Jobs himself. But aside from my contributions of thought and labor at the beginning, both before and after I’d had my name removed from the agreement, I’d made no monetary contribution to the enterprise. Neither did I receive (nor ask for) so much as a dime from either of the Steves as a result of the separation. However, some months later and totally unknown to me, the Steves had apparently linked up with Mr. Arthur Rock (a finder) who then successfully raised (as I understand it) $25,000,000 to found the Apple Computer Corporation. Obviously in an effort to make sure that all the “T’s” were crossed, and all the “I’s” were dotted, one of their attorneys sent me a letter, requesting my signature on a document that would formally negate my originally held 10%. That letter also included (as I remember it) a check for $1500, if I would condescend to do so. Since I had already gone to the Santa Clara Registrar’s Office and executed that separation, I naturally acquiesced – considering the check to simply be “found” money.
He also added, “No one ever diddled me out of anything. My separation from Apple was entirely my own idea, for the several reasons that I’ve given many times.”
Apple Co-Founder Wayne Remembers Steve Jobs [Bloomberg]