Meet the guy who sold Apple the day of its IPO 40 years ago

Paul Wood remembers meeting the founders at a trade show in 1978. Woz was in bib overalls and Jobs wore a goofy plaid suit.

From Tim Galbraith’s “‘The worst trade ever’?: Seven investors who sold Apple stock on IPO day—and missed out on billions,” posted Thursday in Fast Company:

The largest-selling shareholder was the venture arm of Continental Illinois Bank in Chicago, where a young associate named Paul Wood was assigned the due diligence.

Wood, who is now retired, told me he remembers visiting Jobs and Steve Wozniak at a drab back-corner booth at CES, back in the days when the well-known trade show had a summer edition in Chicago as well as its annual presence in Las Vegas. Jobs was wearing a goofy plaid suit and Wozniak wore bib overalls. Wood was no early fan of the deal, but as he performed the background checks with customers and suppliers a different picture began to emerge.

“We were convinced this was going to be an educational play—computers in schools. We had no concept of a personal computer market,” recalled Wood. He had the Apple business plan and started to haircut every assumption he could find, but his more conservative calculations still projected Apple growing like wildfire. Continental Illinois invested $504,000 in August 1978. On IPO day that stake was worth $40 million. The firm sold $5 million of the position at the IPO to get back 10 times its original investment and still held 1.5 million shares of house money. Wood, who went on to co-found private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners, had no regrets when Continental Illinois trimmed the position and locked in gains to contribute to the bank’s overall earnings. Its original stake was a 78-bagger in 28 months. It would take 30 years before an Apple IPO investor would see a 78-fold return.

My take: Fun exercise. Galbraith tracked down six others who sold that day. The joke is that none of them regret it.


  1. Romeo A Esparrago Jr said:
    Selling for a profit isn’t a crime. I’m not one of those “He who dies with the most never-sold AAPL shares wins” kinda person.
    That’s my goal though – sell with no regrets. With AAPL, I’ve always been made happy when I’ve sold, always for a profit. 🙂

    December 10, 2020
  2. Jerry Doyle said:
    “…. Erased from memory is the pitiful stock action for most of the 1990s, not to mention the two CEOs sandwiched after John Sculley and before the Jobs homecoming, during which Apple traded near a split-adjusted 10 cents a share. We forget that the iPhone only launched in 2007, and the iPad came to market in 2010. A staggering 80% of Apple’s market valuation has been created in just the past seven years.”

    As a long term investor since the 90s, the above narrative is poignant for me. The stock floundered and around the turn of the century only then did I see some movement. Many folk who do not know the history of the company believe it all a straight-up-hill progression in stock growth. The humongous stock price growth really didn’t begin until around 2013.

    December 10, 2020
  3. Joe Murphy said:
    Naturally they have no regrets. With their awesome profit and experience, they rinsed and repeated. As Wood demonstrated.

    The current valuation isn’t the all-important point. The important point is use the experience to gain and grow.

    December 10, 2020
  4. Lalit Jagtap said:
    As investor I started my journey with Apple with only 50 shares in 1998.
    Mindset that has worked for me “I own part of Apple business” as Limited Partner.
    Common Stock Uncommon Profit. Yes it works, if one has patience, and faith in the team’s “culture”.

    December 10, 2020

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