This week marks the 40th anniversary of Apple’s initial public offering, a legendary wealth creation event that still haunts those who missed out. A single share purchased on December 12, 1980 for $22 is now worth nearly $22,000. For those who savor the make-believe of perfect foresight, it is the ultimate woulda-coulda-shoulda fantasy. For early investors who sold their stake on IPO day, the pain is all too real.
Of course, on IPO day, Apple’s $2 trillion future was far from certain.
A dose of time travel is required to extract context from the company’s 1980 stock offering prospectus. Apple viewed Radio Shack’s TRS-80 computer as a key competitor, particularly given Radio Shack’s footprint of over 5,000 retail stores versus Apple’s sales channel of 750 independent retailers. Apple expected intense competition from IBM, Xerox, HP, and now defunct Wang Laboratories.
Still, there were plenty of investors eager to get in on the action. On IPO day Apple raised almost $100…