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Apple's Third Co-Founder and the $35 Billion He Left Behind

GUEST BLOG: Overheard in the Greene Room: Conversations with the author of "Adventures of an Apple Founder" by Kerima V. Greene, Senior Talent Producer, Power Lunch

Apple's original logo
Courtesy of Ronald Wayne
Apple's original logo

Three men founded Apple Computer on April 1, 1976.

And while we're all familiar with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, you probably have never heard of Ronald Wayne, Apple's third-co-founder, who bailed out early, and gave up his ten percent stake in Apple for $800.

Had he kept it, that stake would be worth $35 billion today

But he insists he has absolutely no regrets.

Wayne, now 78 and living in semi-retirement in Pahrump, Nevada, tells CNBC he first met Jobs while working as an as chief draftsman for Atari, back in the 1970s.

He was 42 at the time and brought on as "adult supervision' to Apple Computer, an idea originally hatched during their time at the Homebrew Computer Club.. Wayne drafted Apple Computer's original incorporation document, wrote the manual for the Apple I computer, and even designed its first logo, depicting Isaac Newton sitting under a tree.

His participation in the startup gave him a ten percent ownership stake.

Ronald Wayne
Courtesy of Ronald Wayne
Ronald Wayne

But weeks into his role, and worried about being the only founder with assets that could be seized by creditors, he decided to walk away.

He knew in his heart of hearts the business proposal was sound, Wozniak's hardware a winner and Jobs' vision clear.

"But sometimes you just have to move on, because I thought it was the best thing to do at the time. And I am completely comfortable with my decision, absolutely."

Wayne says there were a number of reasons he left Apple and sold his shares: "I couldn't see myself developing in the shadow of geniuses.

I am a much better engineer than businessman.

I had no business in business, and being a co-head of a corporation was not for me."

And besides, at nearly double the age of Woz and Jobs, these guys were to fast, too young, too powerful, I was not sure I could keep up."

Steve Wozniak, on vacation in South Africa, sent CNBC an email yesterday about Ron Wayne's role in the formative days of Apple:

"Every person around was important. They inspired me to believe that this was a fun and exciting adventure. Ron was one of the more critical elements. I would never forget him. He was supportive and an essential 'adult' ingredient that we needed, with important skills and experience that we lacked. I wish that we had come up with a way to go back and reward Ron greatly for his role."

Ronald Wayne
Courtesy of Ronald Wayne
Ronald Wayne

Has Wayne been in touch with Steve Jobs at all?

"Eight or nine years ago, I believe. I think Jobs is a genius in so many ways, along with Wozniak. I remember especially Woz's sense of whimsy and fun. The two were right on track and knew what they wanted very early on. And what Jobs has created today, at Apple, is breathtaking."

Now that Steve Jobs has stepped down, what does he think of the future of Apple?

"I really think Apple will be as successful, if not more successful - with the incredibly talented team in place. Jobs has carefully, tenderly, lovingly assembled a world-class company."

Did Wayne ever think Apple would become this successful?

Adventures of an Apple Founder
Adventures of an Apple Founder

"When I grew up, we could only imagine this stuff in a Buck Rogers movie…and here we are, talking on Skype to different countries, emailing photos and having photos on phones. If you told me back then this would be how it was in real-life, I'd never believe it."

"Adventures of an Apple Founder" is his new book, available at bookstores, online, and ironically, the iTunes Store.

"There is much more to the story than just my brief involvement with the Apple "Adventures of an Apple Founder" offers insight into the experiences, the opportunity, as well as the risk, of being involved in a small computer business at a moment in history that would only later come to be known as “the personal computer revolution.

It also about my passion for engineering and design spans over three quarters of a century, half a dozen industries and a lifetime of adventures!"

Email me at bullishonbooks@cnbc.comAnd follow me on Twitter @BullishonBooks