Everyone loves Forrest Gump, but thanks to Apple's role in the character's life being relegated to a simple letter in the mail, it's easy to forget that the non-fictional company made this fictional man very, very rich. Gump notes in the film that he "doesn't have to worry about money anymore," but just how much cash did Apple make him, and how much would it translate to today? Let's find out.
A version of this calculation appeared a couple of years back, but used a seemingly random dollar figure as its starting point. This time around we'll use actual historical data to find out how much cash Gump and Lieutenant Dan Taylor might have had saved up for their initial investment. It all starts with shrimp.
Keeping his promise to Bubba, Gump invests nearly all of his money into a shrimp boat, named Jenny, in either late 1973 or early 1974. Things are rough at the start, but once the vessel survives Hurricane Carmen in September of 1974, the shrimp are easy pickings. It's roughly a year later that Gump -- having returned home to take care of his sick mother -- receives a (historically inaccurate) letter from Apple, thanking him for his early investment in the company.
Between September of 1974 and September of 1975, Gump and Taylor's modest vessel would have hauled in approximately 400 lbs of shrimp per 12 hours of effort -- though as Jenny was the only ship left after the hurricane, this figure could have actually been much, much higher.
Giving the two-man crew the weekends off, we have 263 shrimping days, which comes to 105,200 lbs over the course of a year. Multiply that by an average per-pound price of $2.30, and we get an income of just over $240,000. If we allow enough money for reasonable living for two people (by 1970s prices), fuel, and maintenance costs, it's not unreasonable to think that Lieutenant Dan still had $140,000 of the pair's cash left over for investment by the time Apple was raising its first outside round of funding.
According to John Wilson's book The New Venturers, this funding didn't take place until 1978, but since the movie's historical goof puts the Apple Computer Inc name and logo on a letter from 1975 (when it didn't actually exist until 1977), we can extrapolate that the Gump/Taylor investment would have likely been part of Apple's first round.
Apple sought $500,000 from various investors for a 15% share of the company. $140,000 of that would have given Gump and Taylor a 5.25% share of the company. Yum!
When Apple went public on December 12, 1980, there was a total of 54,215,332 shares in existence, 4,600,000 of which were offered to the public. This gives our shrimping buddies 2,604,804 shares of AAPL, and when the first day of trading closed at $29, the haul would have been worth $75,539,316.
A trio of 2:1 stock splits have taken place since AAPL went public, and if Gump and Taylor refused to touch their holding, they would currently own 20,838,432 shares of the company's stock. Today, AAPL opened trading at $528.36, giving the two former brothers-in-arms a mind-boggling $11,010,193,931.52.
That's $11 billion, with a "B."
According to Forbes, this would make Gump/Taylor partnership the 106th richest in the world. All thanks to a hurricane and a fruit company.
Note: There are, of course, a number of things that we can't predict with this calculation, like how much of the stock the duo would have sold/bought along the way, any potential dilution of shares prior to the IPO, etc. Still, in almost any case, the net result would still have been pretty much the same, i.e. a couple of extremely rich shrimpers.