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When tech mogul and Apple cofounder Steve Jobs died in 2011, he left his wife, Laurene Powell Jobs, a massive fortune that today is worth $14.1 billion – enough to make her one of the 50 richest people on earth, according to research firm Wealth-X.
Perhaps more remarkable, though, is the Bill Gates-sized pile of money that he didn’t pass along, thanks to one of the more epic and cautionary cases of emotional investing gone wrong.
Jobs cofounded Apple with Steve Wozniak 40 years ago today: April 1, 1976. The young computer company took outside investments to get off the ground, so by the time it went public in 1980, Jobs owned about 11% of Apple – then worth about $130 million.
But Jobs was famously ousted from his company in 1985 after clashing with the board of directors and then CEO John Sculley. In the run-up to and the aftermath of the bitter conflict, Jobs sold his entire Apple stake – save for one share, which gave him access to the company’s annual meetings. That 11% stake in the company today would be worth $66 billion, not including any dividends the company would’ve paid out over the years.
But that’s not the only time a frustrated Jobs sold Apple stock on account of misgivings over the company’s management and direction. Jobs acquired 1.5 million shares of Apple in 1996 after he sold Next Software, the computer company he founded after leaving Apple, for $400 million.
Jobs joined as a senior adviser, but he sold his 1.5 million shares of the company the next year after losing faith in the company, telling Time magazine, “I pretty much had given up hope that the Apple board was going to do anything.”
After accounting for stock splits, that chunk of shares would be worth about $4.6 billion today. Jobs returned as CEO of Apple later in 1997 and would eventually acquire several million more shares of the company, worth nearly $600 million today, according to Wealth-X.
It’s worth noting, though, that Jobs’ decision to sell his Apple shares in 1985 enabled him to buy a tiny animation studio called Pixar from Lucasfilm for $5 million and then build it into a juggernaut, which he would eventually sell to Disney in 2006 for $7.4 billion. The nearly 8% stake in Disney he acquired from the deal is now worth $12.7 billion – about 90% of the fortune he left Powell Jobs.
That’s still an incredible sum by any standard, but it pales in comparison to what he left on the table by cashing out of Apple when he was forced out.