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How the Founders of Apple Got Rich

In the famous Playboy interview (February 1985) Jobs made also clear that money is not a primary motivation for him:

PLAYBOY: We survived 1984, and computers did not take over the world, though some people might find that hard to believe. If there’s any one individual who can be either blamed or praised for the proliferation of computers, you, the 29-year-old father of the computer revolution, are the prime contender. It has also made you wealthy beyond dreams—your stock was worth almost a half billion dollars at one point, wasn’t it?

JOBS: I actually lost $250,000,000 in one year when the stock went down. [Laughs]

PLAYBOY: You can laugh about it?

JOBS: I’m not going to let it ruin my life. Isn’t it kind of funny? You know, my main reaction to this money thing is that it’s humorous, all the attention to it, because it’s hardly the most insightful or valuable thing that’s happened to me in the past ten years. But it makes me feel old, sometimes, when I speak at a campus and I find that what students are most in awe of is the fact that I’m a millionaire.
When I went to school, it was right after the Sixties and before this general wave of practical purposefulness had set in. Now students aren’t even thinking in idealistic terms, or at least nowhere near as much. They certainly are not letting any of the philosophical issues of the day take up too much of their time as they study their business majors. The idealistic wind of the Sixties was still at our backs, though, and most of the people I know who are my age have that ingrained in them forever.

In the Forbes List of the World’s Billionaires (2011) Steve Jobs was ranked at number 110 overall and number 34 in United States with a net worth $8.3 Billion. However, Apple’s controversial stock options of 2001 have contributed to the Apple CEO’s wealth only on a small scale.

Pixar Logo (1986)
Pixar Logo (1986)

In the first instance, Steve Jobs has became a billionaire due to the fact that he had sold all of his stocks – except for one – after his dismissal from Apple in 1985 and invested five million dollars in the computer graphics division of George Lucas, which became Pixar later.

Within the following years, Jobs invested further millions in Pixar since the cartoon expert had to face a long dry spell. Jobs’ stubbornness paid off for him: with the initial public offering of Pixar in 1995, Jobs became a billionaire. As Pixar had been acquired by Disney, Jobs received a 6.7 percent share of Disney for his 49 percent share of Pixar. The Disney stocks alone made up about 4.7 billion dollars of Steve Jobs’ fortune in 2010.

Steve Jobs returning to Apple (MacWorld Expo 1997 in Boston)

In 1996, Apple announced that it would buy Steve Jobs’ other company, NeXT, for US$429 million. The deal was finalized in late 1996, bringing Jobs back to the company he founded. He soon became Apple’s interim CEO after the directors lost confidence in and ousted then-CEO Gil Amelio in a boardroom coup.

Jobs was widely known for taking the $1 salary, a practice that had been in place since he rejoined the company in 1997. His salary was occasionally enhanced by valuable gifts such as a 90 million dollar Gulfstream jet. In March 2003, he was awarded 10 million restricted shares of Apple stock. The annual report of Apple 2007 noted that Jobs holds 5.5 million shares of Apple stock through a series of restricted stock awards over the years that have vested. But it also pointed out that he hadn’t sold a single share of Apple stock in the 10 years since he rejoined the company. His total compensation for 2010 was again the lone dollar, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. He hadn’t sold any of his shares since 1997, according to the 2010 filing. He held no unvested equity awards.

Steve Jobs died on October 5th, 2011. His widow, Laurene Powell Jobs inherited the Steven P. Jobs Trust, which as of May 2013 had a 7.3% stake in The Walt Disney Company worth about $12.1 billion, and 38.5 million shares of Apple Inc. As of July 2020, Powell Jobs and her family were ranked 59th in the Forbes’ annual list of the world’s billionaires and 30th in Forbes 400. According to the same list, she is the wealthiest woman in the technology industry.

In 2017, Laurene Powell Jobs bought a minority stake in the parent of the NBA’s Washington Wizards and the NHL’s Washington Capitals. She also purchased stakes in several media outlets, including a majority of The Atlantic magazine; in mid 2020 she severed ties with Pop-Up Magazine. Laurene Powell Jobs has been putting her fortune to work through Emerson Collective, a hybrid investment, social impact and philanthropic firm she founded in 2004. She launched the Emerson Collective Foundation, now called Waverley Street Foundation, in 2016 with a gift of $1.2 billion, much of it in Disney shares.

Steve Wozniak had been less lucky when it comes to money. In order to finance a house and a car to the amount of two million dollars, Woz gave away many founder’s shares even before the initial public offering, which were worth much more by the IPO. 80 Apple employees who had left empty-handed in the company’s options program benefited from this so-called “WozPlan”.

Steve Wozniak talks about money (from 1:17 on)

When Wozniak abandoned his work at Apple in April 1981, he still possessed four percent of the Apple stocks, which were worth 70 million dollars at that time. A series of misinvestments and two divorces made Wozniak’s fortune diminish rapidly. However, he still should be a millionaire. By his own account, Woz is still drawing a small paycheck from Apple today and is still listed as “employee”.

Wheel of Zeus, Wozniak’ latest enterprise, in which he intended to develop and distribute a GPS positioning system for dogs, does not seem to be crowned by success either. By now, the company’s former web address www.woz.com redirects visitors to Wozniak’s private homepage www.woz.org. (Edited in June 2008).

Woz was more fortunate with his book iWoz, which has probably sold reasonably well and provided for several public appearances. Woz was a regular guest of Steve Jobs’ keynotes at the MacWorld Expo.

Updated January 2012
See also: The Legend of Steve Jobs – His Life and Career » Mac History.

Tags: Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, fortune, money, stock options, net worth, salary, Mike Markkula, Ronald Gerald Wayne, founders, IPO,



  1. i love your message of Steve. But i don’t really understand what is the affiliated between these brothers and Bob Dylan and why Macintosh team quoted his ”
    The Time They Are A-Changin”


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