Dell: “The World’s Largest Startup”

“Welcome to the world’s largest startup!”
Thus tweeted Dell Chairman CEO Michael Dell on taking the company private. Almost 70% of shareholders approved the $25 billion leveraged buyout proposed by Michael, including more than half of shareholders who are not associated with the company.
Carl Icahn, politely referred to as an “activist investor” in many accounts, had tried to wrest the company away from Dell, opining in the Wall Street Journal that “the Dell board for years presided over the loss of tens of billions of dollars in market value at the hands of CEO Michael Dell. Instead of deposing him, the Dell board froze out shareholders.

I’ve not met Mr. Icahn, but I have met with Michael Dell, and spoke on a conference panel with him in Japan many years ago, when I was young and he was younger. He was an exuberant, cocksure person who took pride in a company that he had founded, as PCs Limited, in his college dorm room.

He seems to maintain that enthusiasm today, as the company has weathered the migration of the “personal computer” as an integral component of enterprise computing, the commoditization of its core product line, and now, the advent of cloud computing.

By going private, Michael and his team – in a global enterprise that employs more than 100,000 people and generates more than $50 billion in annual revenue – can focus on how to win a significant share of the global cloud market without being subject to the whimsy of the enormous casino known as the stock market.

As for Mr. Icahn, perhaps he can explain how the acumen that served him so well in taking TWA private many years ago should’ve, could’ve, would’ve been applied to his vision of a glorious future for Dell.

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