Michael Dell: Repairing a legacy?

Feb 06 2013, 10:31 IST
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SummaryMichael once gave up control of his company - and everything began to go south.

Michael Dell once gave up day-to-day control of the computer company that bears his name - and everything began to go south. Now the billionaire is cementing his grip over the firm to try to restore it to its former glory.

The billionaire roped in private equity house Silver Lake and Microsoft Corp, to take his 28-year-old company private for $24.4 billion in the second-largest buyout in technology history.

In Tuesday's announcement, Dell - who once upbraided Apple Inc co-founder's Steve Jobs for trying to rescue the Mac-maker - enthused about the "exciting new chapter" his company was embarking upon.

While those investors and Dell himself have said little on the subject, some analysts believe the brash, combative Texan native, having once propelled his company from a college dorm-room project to the pinnacle of the personal computing world, may be itching to repair his reputation as a visionary CEO.

In the years since he returned in 2007 to re-take the reins at Dell Inc, the company has bled market share to the likes of Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo and is now fighting to stem a steep decline in PC sales.

"Michael Dell is once again hungry. Thirty years ago, we think he hungered for success and wealth. In 2013, we think he hungers to restore his legacy and personal balance sheet," said Cindy Shaw, a managing director and research analyst at investment advisory firm Discern Inc.

"Today, he has the advantages of a global footprint, brand name recognition and connections."

Dell was upheld as a model of innovation as recently as the early 2000s, pioneering online ordering of custom-configured PCs and working closely with Asian component suppliers and manufacturers to assure rock-bottom production costs.

But as of 2012's fourth quarter, Dell's share of the global PC market had slipped to just above 10 percent from 12.5 percent a year earlier as its shipments dived 20 percent, according to research house IDC.

That the company will go private is not necessarily a new idea; Michael Dell told an investor conference in June 2010 he had considered it before.

But by pulling the trigger now, the 47-year-old billionaire can focus on reversing its fortunes by concentrating on higher-margin corporate IT and services - borrowing a page from IBM. He will do so free from the distractions of running a publicly traded company.

That's still no small task for a company that built its name on customized computers but whose star has waned, and now

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