Though there are many misconceptions about the ownership of Apple—including a long-standing myth that it's owned by Bill Gates—there is no single owner. Apple Computers is a public company owned by its shareholders.
Apple Goes Public
Apple Computer, as it was then called, was founded in 1976 by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, who raised the money to start the company on their own. After early success with their first two models, the founders took the company public in 1980 to raise the funds they needed to expand.
Underwriters Morgan Stanley and Hambrecht & Quist took Apple Computer public in December 1980 in the largest initial public offering since Ford Motor Company went public in 1956. Originally filed to sell at $14 per share, the stock opened at $22 per share, sold out in minutes and closed at $29. The run on its stock gave the company a market valuation of $1.7 billion just 24 hours after going public. It also made instant millionaires out of 40 Apple employees who held thousands of stock options.
Microsoft and Apple
Microsoft is often linked with Apple because it invested a large chunk of money in the company at a time when it was struggling. In 1997, Microsoft invested $150 million in Apple to help buoy its stock during a down period when investors where swept up in the dot-com craze. At the time, the companies had an agreement to make Microsoft's Internet Explorer the default browser for Apple's Macintosh computers.
Largest Single Shareholders
Not surprisingly, the largest single shareholder of Apple stock is company co-founder Steve Jobs, who owns more than 5.5 million shares. He is followed by Apple engineer and V.P. Sina Tamaddon with 290,000 shares, and retail chief Ron Johnson with 232,000 shares.
Institutional and Mutual Fund Holders
As of April 2009, more than 71 percent of Apple's stock was owned by institutions and mutual funds. The largest institutional stock holder is FMR LLC, with 39.2 million shares, followed by Barclays Global Investors with 37 million. The top mutual fund holder is The Growth Fund of America with 24.1 million shares. In July 2009, the company's stock was trading at $142.40 per share.