The revelation comes courtesy of a new column Tuesday from Brett Arends of MarketWatch. He noted that the tech bubble burst in 2000 had left many companies hurting, including Apple, which dropped from a peak of $36 down to $7.
In 2003, stock options granted to employees "seemed completely worthless," he wrote. "After all, Apple stock would have to climb all the way back up to those giddy heights before the options even started to show a profit again."
Apple employees were allowed to exchange their options for a smaller number that became valuable at a lower price. Jobs canceled his options in return for $75 million in shares, a move that was said to allow the company to offer more options to other staff, and reportedly was not done due to the diminished stock price.
"Jobs held 15 million options at an exercise price of $9.15, which meant they started to gain value only if Apple stock exceeded that price, and 40 million options at an exercise price of $21.80," Arends wrote. "Apple at the time was little more than $7 a share. (These prices have been adjusted to reflect the subsequent stock split.) Total value: $12.8 billion."
"In other words," he continued, "Steve Jobs missed out on $10.3 billion in extra profits."
Of course, Jobs' 10 million shares are still worth about $2.5 billion today. And last year, he was named the No. 43 wealthiest American with a net worth of $5.1 billion by Forbes.
The chief executive famously takes a salary of only $1 for his work at Apple, but receives millions in compensation in the form of stock options.
While Arends suggested Jobs' move in 2003 was the "dumbest trade ever," Jobs has also been behind some quite profitable deals. Perhaps his best move was purchasing Pixar from filmmaker George Lucas in 1986 for $10 million. He sold the company to Disney in 2006 for $7.4 billion in stock, and was also given a seat on the Disney Board of Directors.