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Options Trade Cost Steve Jobs $4 Billion

If you're kicking yourself for missing out on Apple (AAPL) right now, you're not alone. iPhone mania (should we now coin the phrase "i-Mania" for the next Apple product?) has sent the stock soaring to an all-time high. The stock is up a stunning 1,600% since early 2003.

No one thought it would come this far. Even those who got in early, and stayed along for the amazing ride, wish they owned a lot more.

One name on that list will astonish you: Steve Jobs.

Yes, him.

I can reveal that the Apple CEO missed out on more than $4 billion in personal profit on Apple stock, thanks to a decision he made to cut his exposure to the stock four years ago.

Four billion dollars. And change.

Do you think he'd like this one back?

Apple media relations declined to comment.

It was early 2003 when Jobs and the board sat down to consider a problem. He had been hard at work rescuing the company since 1997, but his main compensation had been in the form of a $90 million airplane and a huge chunk of stock options that the tech crash had left worthless.

Most of the options had been granted at much higher prices. By early 2003 Apple stock was down 80% from its peak. The astonishing success of the iPod and iTunes remained mostly in the future, and Wall Street wasn't much interested.

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