How Steve Jobs used to blag free lunches from Apple

In last year’s Forbes rich list, Steve Jobs widow Laurene Powell-Jobs was 23rd with wealth of around $17.7bn. While it’s not immediately obvious how much of that was from Apple stock, and how much was from Jobs’ shares in Disney, one thing is clear: Steve Jobs wasn’t short of a bob or two when he died.

Which makes this story all the more baffling/charming, depending on how you look at it. This is another gem from the Computer History Museum’s interview with Scott Forstall, which already revealed that the iPhone was invented partly because Jobs hated someone at Microsoft (not Bill Gates.)

Unlike many Silicon Valley companies, which provide free lunches as one of the perks, Apple makes its employees pay for their grub in the cafe. It sounds stingy, but you have to fund the R&D on Apple-patented pizza boxes somehow. how_steve_jobs_used_to_nab_free_lunches_from_apple_-_1

But it turns out Steve Jobs had a hack to a free lunch.

“He and I would go to lunch at the cafeteria at Apple all the time, and he would insist on paying,” explained Forstall. “I was like, ‘you’re paying me enough that I can afford the $8 lunch’, but he’d always — if he got his food before, he’d wait at the line for me to get up there, and he’d pay. And he made it so you could pay with your badge. So you’d come up there and you’d badge in, and it would be directly withdrawn from your paycheque.”

“Somehow, I was like, ‘Why are you — I mean, like, really, go sit down. I’ll be out there. I feel like an ass while you’re sitting there waiting for me, and I feel like I can’t get any long-cooking food,’ and he said, ‘No, no, no. This is great. I only get paid $1 a year. I don’t know who’s paying every time I badge.’ He was a multibillionaire scamming Apple!”

Why was Steve Jobs only paid $1 per year? Because that’s what Jobs agreed when he returned to Apple in 1997. At the time, the company was struggling, to put it mildly, and with a lot of Apple shares in his name, Jobs was optimistic that his work would be well rewarded in the long run. Plus, of course, he wasn’t exactly hard up as things stood – his Pixar animation studio was doing well off the back of Toy Story, and nine years later Disney would pay $7.4bn for it.

You can see the full interview with Forstall below. Skip to 1:07 for the start, and 1:55:50 for the Apple cafe anecdote.

Image: James Mitchell, used under Creative Commons

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