smartphones and tablet computers. PC sales fell 3.5 percent last year, according to the research group Gartner Inc., the first annual decline in more than a decade. What's more, tablet computers are expected to outsell laptops this year.
The shift has weakened long-time stalwarts such as Dell, fellow PC maker Hewlett-Packard Co., chip maker Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp.
Michael Dell, 47, is betting that his company will be able to evolve into a more diversified seller of technology services, business software and high-end computers without having to pander to the stock market's fixation on whether earnings are growing from one quarter to the next. Dell expects to complete the sale by the end of July.
Once the deal closes, Dell's stock will stop trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market 25 years after the Round Rock, Texas, company raised $30 million in an initial public offering of stock.
The proposed deal could face resistance from long-time stockholders who believe Dell is still worth at least $15 per share. Anticipating such criticism, Dell's board is allowing a 45-day period for potential suitors to submit higher bids.
Dell's board "is saying that no better option exists,'' said Bill Nygren, manager of the Oakmark Fund and affiliates, which own about 25 million shares of Dell stock. "Should we hear evidence to the contrary, we'll raise a ruckus.''
If approved, the deal will likely give Michael Dell his last chance to restore the luster to a company that established him as one of the world's most respected entrepreneurs. Dell started selling PCs out of his dorm room while he was still a freshman at the University of Texas. His legacy has been tarnished in the past decade as HP and other rivals outmaneuvered his company. In recent years, Dell has struggled to cope with the upheaval unleashed by the popularity of smartphones and tablet computers.
The buyout marks a new era for a company created in 1984 by a college kid with a $1,000 investment. The company, initially called "PCs Limited,'' would go on to revolutionize the PC industry by taking orders for custom-made machines at a reasonable price - first on the phone, then on the Internet.
Initially valued at $85 million in its 1988 initial public offering of stock, Dell went on a growth tear that turned the company into a stock market star. At the height of the dot-com boom in 2000, Dell was the world's largest PC maker,