The mania of postmortem remembrance of Steve Jobs may have reached its apotheosis on Tuesday when the founding documents of Apple -- signed by Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and a third partner -- were bought at auction for $1.59 million.
The documents -- which were initially valued at $100-150,000 by Sotheby's -- were sold by Wade Saadi, founder and CEO of Pencom Systems. Here he is on video last Friday, five days before the auction, talking to Bloomberg's Margaret Brennan.
"I never really told anyone except my close friends that I had it," said Saadi, "and when Steve Jobs died that's when the phone started to ring... To me they represent a point in time when I was fascinated with what Steve Jobs had accomplished at Apple Computer, not only developing a personal computer that Xerox never thought would go anywhere, but successfully marketing it."
So who did Saadi purchase the precious papers from in the first place? He says he bought them from one of the signees himself -- Ron Wayne -- for "several thousand dollars." (Wayne himself says he sold them to an autograph collector for $500. See below.) Wayne is famous as the third founder of Apple, the one who bowed out of the newly minted corporation just 11 days after signing it into existence, thus enshrining him as perhaps the least financially prescient individual of all time.
In an interview with Peter Jon Shuler a few months ago, Apple employee No. 12 Dan Kottke had this to say about Wayne's involvement with Apple:
...then there was the small item of the $30,000 worth of small parts that needed to be ordered. That was the point at which Ron Wayne, who was the third founding partner, got cold feet, because he had a mortgage to pay, unlike these 2 kids. He felt like he was the adult and he couldn’t keep up with these guys. When Steve Jobs told him he had ordered $30,000 worth of parts, that was a lot of money, and Ron backed out.
The contract Wayne signed, then backed out of, gave him 10 percent ownership in Apple, which today comes out to something like $35 billion. Wayne has said he's not bitter about his decision. But that's an awful lot of money to get philosophical about. One would think this week's $1.6 million sale can only add insult to whatever injury there is.
In this Dec 9 Bloomberg video, starting at 2:38, Wayne speaks about the documents from his home in Las Vegas, and lets it be known that he's not a rich guy.