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Nolan Bushnell Rejected Steve Jobs Offer for 30% Share in Apple

nolan bushnell steve jobs appleWell that would suck. Could you imagine turning down $140 billion? Yeah, that’s billion with a “B”, and 140 of them. That was the fateful decision one man made one day in 1976, but how was he to know what the future held? Who was the man and what was it he turned down? It was Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza-Time theatres, and he was rejecting an offer from none other than a young up and coming man called Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple. Now we know this isn’t the first heart breaking story of a lost fortune from Apple. You can read our piece about Ronald Wayne who tossed away $35 billion for a meagre $800. But this surely must be the largest loss any one person has faced. This is how the disaster played out.

By 1974 Nolan Bushnell had already made a name for himself with his innovative Atari home gaming system and Pong. Steve Jobs was still an unknown, but was working on a home computer with Steve Wozniak. Jobs and Wozniak, along with Ronald Wayne who was an Atari employee were using spare Atari parts at the time to develop their computer. They even offered the computer to Bushnell, but he turned the offer down as his company wanted to focus on home gaming entertainment. Now that offer could be regarded as a bad move, but there was no guarantee that Apple would have been a success under Bushnell’s leadership. The real dagger in the financial heart was to come in 1976.

By he time 1976 had come around Apple was still a small struggling company. Atari on the other hand had made it. What Apple needed was financial backing. Here comes the disaster. Steve Jobs offered Nolan Bushnell 30 percent of Apple in return for $50,000. Bushnell rejected the offer. With the current value of Apple standing at $415 billion, that means he rejected $138 billion! But then again, how was he to know that Apple would become the world’s largest company? After all it was still being run out of Jobs garage. In Nolan Bushnell’s own words, “Steve asked me if I would put $50,000 in and he would give me a third of the company. I was so smart, I said no. It’s kind of fun to think about that, when I’m not crying.”

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