Apple's success has generated hundreds of billions of dollars, but not many billionaires

Posted:
in General Discussion edited April 11
There's just one billionaire in Apple's current leadership, who didn't make his money from Apple. But the company has produced billion-dollar fortunes for suppliers.




The word "billion" comes up a lot when it comes to Apple, whether it's the company's $873 billion market capitalization, more than $280 billion in cash on hand, or the more than $11 billion Apple reportedly spent on research and development last year.

Despite that, Apple has produced few billionaires, and no one currently in the main leadership of the company who earned billionaire status directly through their involvement with Apple. According to a Bloomberg report Tuesday Apple stands in contrast with other Silicon Valley companies, in which CEOs and other investors have achieved net worths in the billions.

Steve Jobs was a billionaire; his net worth was estimated at around $10 billion at the time of his death in 2011. But due to his departing the company and coming back, which resulted in his selling his shares and having to re-acquire them, Jobs' net worth was much lower than that of his contemporary Bill Gates. Much of Jobs' fortune came from non-Apple sources, including his cofounding of Pixar Animation Studios and its subsequent acquisiton by Disney.

Current CEO Tim Cook is not a billionaire; his net worth is estimated in the $600 million range. Art Levinson, Apple's chairman, is the only known billionaire in Apple's present leadership, although he earned most of his fortune from non-Apple business, mostly his time with Genentech. Bloomberg's Billionaires Index consists of 500 names; the only name on the list with any direct association with Apple is Laurene Powell Jobs, the entrepreneur and widow of Steve Jobs, although she has no role with the company.

Suppliers cash in

Not mentioned in the report, are the founders and/or CEOs of several top Apple suppliers. Zhou Qunfei, founder of Lens Technology, is ranked 217th with a listed fortune of $7.3 billion. Terry You, the founder of major Apple supplier Foxconn, is at #273, with a net worth of $6.16 billion, as is Barry Lam, founder and CEO of Quanta Computer, whose $4.12 billion fortune places him 486th.

Apple's wealth has always been spread around employees and suppliers more than other tech companies. None of its cofounding generation is still with the company, as Jobs is deceased, Steve Wozniak's stake is estimated in the millions rather than billions, and the third cofounder, Ronald Wayne, infamously walked away from the company for $800 in 1976. Mike Markkula, an early investor in Apple and employee number three, is said to have a net worth over $1 billion, but he left Apple in the '90s.

Apple doesn't have a Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, or Larry Ellison, a dominant executive figure who's both still in the picture and in position to demand overwhelming compensation.

Apple also hasn't spent the amount on acquisitions that would put billions in the pockets of those with significant equity in the acquired companies. Despite various reports to the contrary at the time, Apple's purchase of Beats in 2014 did not make Dr. Dre the first billionaire rapper. However, Bloomberg did speculate that some longtime Apple employees, such as Jony Ive, may hold enough equity in the company to push their net worth over a billion dollars.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 24
    Apple was also founded in the mid 1970’s which was a very different time for tech and investment.

    People like myself, who invested in Apple after the return of Steve Jobs but before success became obvious, have done very well. I started buying Apple stock right after the release of the OS X Public Beta. Those shares split 2-1 and then 7-1 later, so 1 share then is 14 now without dividend reinvestment.
    I stopped buying new shares in the low-mid $300/share range before the 7-1 split.

    When I got home with the Public Beta and installed it- bugs and all- on my Mac, I knew Apple had a winning product if they kept pushing. 

    I’ll never be a billionaire, but there are many like me who will retire very well because we got on the train before most of the crowd. If you go to the shareholders meeting you can meet quite a few ordinary people who have done very well by betting on Apple early. I also had the good fortune to buy Amazon stock when the financial papers were constantly griping about Bezos growing the company rather than chasing profitability.
    cornchipracerhomie3jony0
  • Reply 2 of 24
    rob53rob53 Posts: 1,806member
    In other words, nobody at Apple is gouging the other employees, grabbing all the money for themselves. Look at other companies where multiple people grab the majority of the money leaving the actual workers with peanuts, like the Walton family having everything and Walmart employees close to nothing. 
    anomedysamoriaretrogustobadmonkevilutionracerhomie3watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 3 of 24
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,091member
    Well honestly...after you have a few Million, why do you need a few Billion? If I'm an executive at Apple and have $200 Million in the bank, what difference does it make to have a $1 Billion? I guess some people just want to feel like they need to have that much money. If I have $200 million already, getting a raise isn't going to make me any happier. I guess some people are different though. 

    If you like what you do and get paid for it and can live a healthy and happy lifestyle, then why do you need all of that money? Why do people think they're worth Billions of dollars?

    It kinda sounds to me like Apple Executives don't necessarily do this for the money, but rather they do it because they like what they do and they enjoy where they're working. They realize the big picture and aren't just out to get rich. If you're successful at Apple, you'll make the money you deserve. 
    radarthekatmwhiteStrangeDaysanomedysamoriaretrogustobadmonkcornchipjonagoldracerhomie3
  • Reply 4 of 24
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,091member

    Apple was also founded in the mid 1970’s which was a very different time for tech and investment.

    People like myself, who invested in Apple after the return of Steve Jobs but before success became obvious, have done very well. I started buying Apple stock right after the release of the OS X Public Beta. Those shares split 2-1 and then 7-1 later, so 1 share then is 14 now without dividend reinvestment.
    I stopped buying new shares in the low-mid $300/share range before the 7-1 split.

    When I got home with the Public Beta and installed it- bugs and all- on my Mac, I knew Apple had a winning product if they kept pushing. 

    I’ll never be a billionaire, but there are many like me who will retire very well because we got on the train before most of the crowd. If you go to the shareholders meeting you can meet quite a few ordinary people who have done very well by betting on Apple early. I also had the good fortune to buy Amazon stock when the financial papers were constantly griping about Bezos growing the company rather than chasing profitability.
    I was really young back then (like early teens!)...but I wish I could have purchased shares of Apple when it was around $12-14/share. Even if it was $1000 worth back then, it would be worth a hell of a lot more today. I think around the Mac OS X era, wasn't it around $25-30/share'ish for a while?
  • Reply 5 of 24
    I expect that there are very, very few billionaires who got there just by being a CEO.  If you aren't a founder of a company (therefore a major shareholder), you're not going to capture a significant portion of a company's value.  Business isn't like professional sports where superstars are bought and sold for hundreds of millions of dollars.  The way to get stratospherically rich is to be in on the ground floor of a company that takes over the world.
    StrangeDaysSpamSandwichcornchip
  • Reply 6 of 24
    65026502 Posts: 65member
    It's typically only the founders that become billionaires as they own most of the stock (it's not through compensation). Non-founders can become plenty rich but all the billionaires mentioned are founders.
    randominternetpersoncornchip
  • Reply 7 of 24
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 4,386member
    I expect that there are very, very few billionaires who got there just by being a CEO.  If you aren't a founder of a company (therefore a major shareholder), you're not going to capture a significant portion of a company's value.  Business isn't like professional sports where superstars are bought and sold for hundreds of millions of dollars.  The way to get stratospherically rich is to be in on the ground floor of a company that takes over the world.
    Yes, and it's very, very rare. Most start-ups (and businesses) fail. It's heartbreaking to those involved, especially when it's our savings and mortgages on the line*, but it's part of the American entrepreneur sprit -- we try despite the near certainty of failure. We must try.

    *Professional entrepreneurs get good at the game and reach a point where they never invest their own money, but that's a luxury the little guy entrepreneurs can't afford.
    edited April 11 cornchipracerhomie3watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 24
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,024member
    Yeah this is a different time.

    I work for a Start-up in the 90's, it went public no one got big time rich, one of the 4 founders did well, not from his company stock, but he put a lot of his founder IPO money into Netscape Pre-IPO and made lots of money once they went public. Than the Company was bought out by a much larger company for $4B which was one of the largest start-up companies acquisition in the 90, and it was seen as one the 10 best acquisition in all of the 90's. Right before the acquisition we had about 800 employees and the acquisition generated 32 Millions over night all cash no stock swap, this was never heard of at the time.

    One big difference today from back then, most of time when a company goes IPO, the founder are usually pushed out. The investment world did not like the fact the people who started the company are still running it once it is public. The other thing different about the company I worked for, it got its start without any VC money, we had a lucrative government contract which funded the growth in to the public sector. Because of this the founders were not pushed out by the VC, the Wall Street tried push them out. Also over 50% of the stock was held by employees, thus the reason 32 millionaires were generated. The balance of the people made 100's thousands. Do the math 50% was owned by the employees and founders and we split the $2B most of that did go to the 4 founders.

    Today you have more founders running their companies, they also hold most of the share they are not sharing it with all the employees because VC do not like this nor does Wall Street. Wall Street does not like closely held companies, why, they can not force the company to do what they want.

    Imagine one of these big startups generated a number of Billionaires or even 100's Millions Millionaires. You are not seeing this either these companies are not spreading the wealth among all the people who worked for the company and help it grow. I suspect that Apple has lots of people who now have net worth's well in the millions. It would not surprise me there are a few thousand employees with net worth in the millions, since apple does spread the stock around.
  • Reply 9 of 24
    *Professional entrepreneurs get good at the game and reach a point where they never invest their own money, but that's a luxury the little guy entrepreneurs can't afford.
    The beauty of that is that, those "professional" entrepreneurs usually start somewhere. And it is usually "little guy entrepreneur" level, where they start their journey.

  • Reply 10 of 24
    Actually they’ve generated billionaires from the App Store and their heavily supported device ecosystem. 
    SpamSandwich
  • Reply 11 of 24
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 1,627member
    macxpress said:
    Well honestly...after you have a few Million, why do you need a few Billion? If I'm an executive at Apple and have $200 Million in the bank, what difference does it make to have a $1 Billion? I guess some people just want to feel like they need to have that much money. If I have $200 million already, getting a raise isn't going to make me any happier. I guess some people are different though. 

    If you like what you do and get paid for it and can live a healthy and happy lifestyle, then why do you need all of that money? Why do people think they're worth Billions of dollars?
    Many people tend to adjust their lifestyle so that they're living at the edge of their income. This includes the very wealthy. Some people listed as millionaires have so many expensive properties and items that the cost of owning them leaves them living from paycheck to paycheck. They feel pressured to keep growing their income as a result. I don't know if this is greed or just a lack of self awareness and a disconnection from any part of society that isn't the wealthy (keeping up with the Jones, when they're millionaires, is very different from keeping up with the Jones who are lower middle-class).

    it would be nice if millionaires could recognize their privileges and not continue trying to acquire more and more wealth when they're already very wealthy, but the way they've been inculcated into society is usually different from the way the rest of us have been inculcated. They usually come from wealth in the first place.

    Some consider their success to be purely the result of their efforts and ambition to succeed, and therefore more wealth equates to more success and validation in their minds. This is a very common attitude in the USA. It isn't just millionaires. Millionaires simply stand out more because the culture of the USA tells us to admire these people and try to emulate them.

    While I'm mentioning the expectation to emulate the behavior of the very successful, and the cultural expectations around success: this culture expects the results of our efforts to be entirely left on our own shoulders, regardless of whether or not we have access to the same opportunities as the people who've "made it". People fall prey to survivorship bias a lot when they get into arguing "if I made it, you can too".
  • Reply 12 of 24
    irelandireland Posts: 17,020member
    I still believe most SVPs at these companies are paid far too much money for what they do. They should be paid well, clearly, but there’s no reason why a Tim Cook should be worth $600M. In my opinion.
  • Reply 13 of 24
    irelandireland Posts: 17,020member
    dysamoria said:
    macxpress said:
    Well honestly...after you have a few Million, why do you need a few Billion? If I'm an executive at Apple and have $200 Million in the bank, what difference does it make to have a $1 Billion? I guess some people just want to feel like they need to have that much money. If I have $200 million already, getting a raise isn't going to make me any happier. I guess some people are different though. 

    If you like what you do and get paid for it and can live a healthy and happy lifestyle, then why do you need all of that money? Why do people think they're worth Billions of dollars?
    Many people tend to adjust their lifestyle so that they're living at the edge of their income. This includes the very wealthy. Some people listed as millionaires have so many expensive properties and items that the cost of owning them leaves them living from paycheck to paycheck. They feel pressured to keep growing their income as a result. I don't know if this is greed or just a lack of self awareness and a disconnection from any part of society that isn't the wealthy (keeping up with the Jones, when they're millionaires, is very different from keeping up with the Jones who are lower middle-class).
    It is a disconnection from oneself which creates such behaviour, as you describe. When wishes, wants, needs and desires become all mixed up—disconnection.
    edited April 11
  • Reply 14 of 24
    kruegdudekruegdude Posts: 114member
    I thought about writing that one app to rule them all and become a billionaire but saw that Apple unfairly distributed the monies across many app developers and gave up my dream. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 24
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 1,783member
    Even if it's not an apples-to-apples comparison, I think this is something for people at Apple to be proud of. 

    There is too much concentration of wealth today in the hands of people who produce little of real value. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 24
    kerpowkerpow Posts: 7member
    Oh those poor executives at Apple. Having to settle for millions instead of billions. My heart aches for them.
    ireland
  • Reply 17 of 24
    cincyteecincytee Posts: 227member
    dysamoria said:
    macxpress said:
    Well honestly...after you have a few Million, why do you need a few Billion? If I'm an executive at Apple and have $200 Million in the bank, what difference does it make to have a $1 Billion? I guess some people just want to feel like they need to have that much money. If I have $200 million already, getting a raise isn't going to make me any happier. I guess some people are different though. 
    Many people tend to adjust their lifestyle so that they're living at the edge of their income. This includes the very wealthy. Some people listed as millionaires have so many expensive properties and items that the cost of owning them leaves them living from paycheck to paycheck. 
    As the line goes from Porgy and Bess
    "Folks with plenty o' plenty got a lock on their door.
    'Fraid somebody gonna rob 'em while they out a-makin' more."
  • Reply 18 of 24
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 28,818member
    Not many people can claim to be billionaires, but how many can thank Apple for making them millionaires? I know there are quite a few here and I'll bet there are quite a few connected to their employment with Apple.
  • Reply 19 of 24
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,079member
    Apple was also founded in the mid 1970’s which was a very different time for tech and investment.

    People like myself, who invested in Apple after the return of Steve Jobs but before success became obvious, have done very well. I started buying Apple stock right after the release of the OS X Public Beta. Those shares split 2-1 and then 7-1 later, so 1 share then is 14 now without dividend reinvestment.
    I stopped buying new shares in the low-mid $300/share range before the 7-1 split.

    When I got home with the Public Beta and installed it- bugs and all- on my Mac, I knew Apple had a winning product if they kept pushing. 

    I’ll never be a billionaire, but there are many like me who will retire very well because we got on the train before most of the crowd. If you go to the shareholders meeting you can meet quite a few ordinary people who have done very well by betting on Apple early. I also had the good fortune to buy Amazon stock when the financial papers were constantly griping about Bezos growing the company rather than chasing profitability.
    Exactly the same story my wife and I can tell on the investment timing and happy retirement.  I was surprised to see some data recently showing how few individual investors like us Apple actually has.
  • Reply 20 of 24
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 28,818member
    dysamoria said:
    macxpress said:
    Well honestly...after you have a few Million, why do you need a few Billion? If I'm an executive at Apple and have $200 Million in the bank, what difference does it make to have a $1 Billion? I guess some people just want to feel like they need to have that much money. If I have $200 million already, getting a raise isn't going to make me any happier. I guess some people are different though. 

    If you like what you do and get paid for it and can live a healthy and happy lifestyle, then why do you need all of that money? Why do people think they're worth Billions of dollars?
    Many people tend to adjust their lifestyle so that they're living at the edge of their income. This includes the very wealthy. Some people listed as millionaires have so many expensive properties and items that the cost of owning them leaves them living from paycheck to paycheck. They feel pressured to keep growing their income as a result. I don't know if this is greed or just a lack of self awareness and a disconnection from any part of society that isn't the wealthy (keeping up with the Jones, when they're millionaires, is very different from keeping up with the Jones who are lower middle-class).

    it would be nice if millionaires could recognize their privileges and not continue trying to acquire more and more wealth when they're already very wealthy, but the way they've been inculcated into society is usually different from the way the rest of us have been inculcated. They usually come from wealth in the first place.

    Some consider their success to be purely the result of their efforts and ambition to succeed, and therefore more wealth equates to more success and validation in their minds. This is a very common attitude in the USA. It isn't just millionaires. Millionaires simply stand out more because the culture of the USA tells us to admire these people and try to emulate them.

    While I'm mentioning the expectation to emulate the behavior of the very successful, and the cultural expectations around success: this culture expects the results of our efforts to be entirely left on our own shoulders, regardless of whether or not we have access to the same opportunities as the people who've "made it". People fall prey to survivorship bias a lot when they get into arguing "if I made it, you can too".
    The bolded text is what I'm responding to:  I've not found this in my own experience with well off people. Those who are mostly responsible for their own success tend to be rather conservative with their money. Those who have had money handed to them tend to be reckless with that money.
    edited April 11
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