Ronald Gerald Wayne
May 17, 1934
|Known for||Co-founding Apple Inc.|
Ronald Gerald Wayne (born May 17, 1934) is a retired American electronics industry businessman. He co-founded Apple Computer Company (now Apple Inc.) as a partnership with Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs on April 1, 1976, providing administrative oversight and documentation for the new venture. Twelve days later, he sold his 10% share of the new company back to Jobs and Wozniak for US$800 (equivalent to $3,810 in 2021), and one year later accepted a final US$1,500 (equivalent to $7,143 in 2021) to forfeit any potential future claims against the newly incorporated Apple.
Wayne was born in Cleveland, Ohio, United States on May 17, 1934. to a Jewish family. He trained as a technical draftsman at the School of Industrial Art in New York.
In 1956, aged 22, he moved to California. In 1971, Wayne started his first business, a company selling slot machines. The company failed, with Wayne reflecting in 2014 that, "I discovered very quickly that I had no business being in business. I was far better working in engineering."
In 1976, Ronald Wayne built the internal corporate documentation systems at the three-year-old Atari, when he met coworkers Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. To help settle one of their typical intense discussions about the design of computers and the future of the industry, Wayne invited the two to his home to facilitate and advise them. In the ensuing two-hour conversation about technology and business, Jobs proposed the founding of a computer company led by him and Wozniak. Those two would each hold a 45% stake so that Wayne could receive a 10% stake to act as a tie-breaker in their decisions. As the venture's self-described "adult in the room" at age 41, Wayne wrote a partnership agreement, and the three founded Apple Computer on April 1, 1976. Wayne illustrated the first Apple logo and wrote the Apple I manual.
Wayne's business attitude was already risk-averse due to his experience five years prior with the "very traumatic" failure of his slot machine business, the debt of which he had spent one year voluntarily repaying. Jobs secured a US$15,000 line of credit to buy product materials for Apple's first order which had been placed by The Byte Shop whose reputation as a notoriously slow-paying vendor gave Wayne great concern for his future. Legally, all members of a partnership are personally responsible for any debts incurred by any partner; unlike Jobs and Wozniak, then 21 and 25, Wayne had personal assets that potential creditors could possibly seize. Furthermore, his passion was in original product engineering and in slot machines, and not in the documentation systems he assumed Jobs and Wozniak probably wanted him to do indefinitely at Apple. Believing he was "standing in the shadow of giants" of product-design talent and avoiding financial risk, he quit the company. Reportedly, "Twelve days after Wayne wrote the document that formally created Apple, he returned to the registrar's office and renounced his role in the company", therefore relinquishing his equity in exchange for US$800 on April 12, 1976. This period of time however has been disputed by Steve Wozniak, who in an interview said that Wayne left the company after a few months.
Wayne has stated in following decades that he does not regret selling his share of the company, as he made the "best decision with the information available to me at the time". He said he had originally believed that the Apple enterprise "would be successful, but at the same time there would be significant bumps along the way and I couldn't risk it. I had already had a rather unfortunate business experience before. I was getting too old and those two were whirlwinds. It was like having a tiger by the tail and I couldn't keep up with these guys." Although Apple ended up at one point becoming the most valuable company in the world, he said that with the stress of staying with Apple he "probably would have wound up the richest man in the cemetery." He summarized, "What can I say? You make a decision based on your understanding of the circumstances, and you live with it."
Shortly after leaving Apple, Wayne resisted Jobs' attempts to get him to return, remaining at Atari until 1978, when he joined Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and later an electronics company in Salinas, California.
In the late 1970s, Wayne ran a stamp shop in Milpitas, California, for a short time. After a number of break-ins, he moved his stamp operations to his home.
Steve Jobs approached him again as a business contact for Apple, but Wayne refused to even forward Jobs' proposal to purchase a friend's company. Wayne's principle was that his friend should retain ownership under exclusive license to Apple instead of selling, but he would later express regret for having blocked the contact instead of allowing the decision to be made directly.
In the early 1990s, Wayne sold the original Apple partnership contract paper, signed in 1976 by Jobs, Wozniak, and himself, for US$500. In 2011, the contract was sold at auction for $1.6 million. Wayne has stated that he regrets that sale.
Circa 2004, aged 70, Wayne claims he was robbed of his life savings, which he kept in a strongbox in his home. Amongst the assets he held was 145 ounces of gold (~$247,000 as of November 2022) and $3,000 worth of silver coins; the precious metals were never recovered. To cover expenses, Wayne was compelled to sell his house and retire to a mobile home park in Pahrump, Nevada, where he sells stamps and rare coins, and plays penny slots at a casino; he later sold off old Apple memorabilia to collectors to pay off bills. Wayne never owned an Apple product until 2011, when he was given an iPad 2 at the Update Conference in Brighton, England. He holds a dozen patents.
In July 2011, Wayne published a memoir titled Adventures of an Apple Founder. His plan for initial exclusivity on the Apple Books store did not materialize. He wrote a socioeconomic treatise titled Insolence of Office, released on October 1, 2011 (four days prior to the death of Steve Jobs), which he describes as this:
...the product of decades of research and observation into the evolution of human governance, and the foundations of the American Constitutional Republic. Through this analysis, the reader is introduced to a complete, yet simplified understanding of the architecture of our Constitution, its foundations, principles, and the essential meaning of its structure all in the context of modern living.
He appeared in the documentary Welcome to Macintosh in 2008, where he describes some of his early experiences with Jobs and Wozniak.
Twelve days after Wayne wrote the document that formally created Apple, he returned to the registrar's office and renounced his role in the company. When Jobs and Wozniak filed for incorporation a year later, Wayne received a letter asking him to officially forfeit any claims against the company, and he received another check, this time for $1,500.
Wayne left Apple for only $800. "What can I say? You make a decision based on your understanding of the circumstances, and you live with it," he said.