Apple Co-Founder Ron Wayne: Losing Millions ‘Was Character Building’

Apple co-founder Ron Wayne has spoken before about his brief 12-day tenure with the company, at the end of which he cashed out and moved on, denying himself an opportunity to become a multi-millionaire just a few years later. He has never expressed regrets about the decision, and on Wednesday, he posted an essay about the experience on his Facebook fan page, calling the fortune he missed out on “character building.”

Mr. Wayne writes: “I didn’t separate myself from Apple because of any lack of enthusiasm for the concept of computer products. Aside from any immediate apprehension in regard to financial risks, I left because I didn’t feel that this new enterprise would be the working environment that I saw for myself, essentially for the rest of my days.”

He goes on to say that he believed the new venture would be successful, although he admits that if he had known 300 millionaires would emerge from it in just four years, he would have stuck around. “And then I still would have walked away. Steve and Steve had their project. They wanted to change the world in their way. I wanted to change the world in my own.”

He was also working for Atari during that time, and he said he and Steve Jobs, who was also an Atari employee during the early days, often talked about the stock market and how high it could climb. The Dow had broken 1,000 points, and Mr. Wayne says he envisioned it climbing beyond 5,000 and even 10,000. (Today it sits around the 13,000-point mark.)

Mr. Wayne also reflects on the money he lost by walking away from Apple. “To counter much that has been written in the press about me as of late, I didn’t lose out on billions of dollars. That’s a long stretch between 1976 and 2012. Apple went through a lot of hard times and many thought Apple would simply go out of business at various times in its maturity. I perhaps lost tens of millions of dollars. And quite honestly, between just you and me, it was character building.”

He goes on to note that the US$2,300 he received from Apple would be $9,200 in today’s money. Inflation is something Mr. Wayne apparently thinks quite a lot about, as it is one of the drivers of a new book he just published, Insolence of Office, that he says he started working on back in 1976.