The Vote’s In: Dell to Go Private

Michael Dell

Michael Dell

Just days after billionaire investor Carl Icahn pulled the plug on his high-profile objections to Michael Dell’s plans to take the computer vendor he founded private, Dell’s wish appears to have true.

The company said Thursday morning that, based on a preliminary tally from a special meeting of its stockholders, Dell’s proposal along with investment firm Silver Lake Partners to take Dell Inc. private has been given the thumbs up. Dell stockholders will get $13.75 for each Dell share they hold, plus a special cash dividend of $0.13 per share. The total value of the transaction will be approximately $24.9 billion, the company said.

“I am pleased with this outcome and am energized to continue building Dell into the industry’s leading provider of scalable, end-to-end technology solutions,” Michael Dell said in a statement announcing the preliminary vote. “As a private enterprise, with a strong private-equity partner, we’ll serve our customers with a single-minded purpose and drive the innovations that will help them achieve their goals.”

The deal, still subject to regulatory approval, will see Dell go private by the end of its third quarter next month.

The vote, once confirmed, ends a nine-month odyssey. Rumors started circulating in late January that Michael Dell was looking for investment backing to take the company he founded private, and by early February, Dell and Silver Lake announced their plans to make the move. It didn’t take long for opponents to the deal to start making their complaints known.

Eventually, the resistance to Dell’s move centered around Icahn, whose Southeastern Asset Management owns approximately 14 percent of Dell. The feud between Dell and Icahn became a bitter and high-profile tiff, only officially ending when Icahn said Monday it “would be almost impossible to win” enough investor support to hold off Dell’s bid. Icahn’s last shot was in the form of a letter in which he wrote, “The Dell board, like so many boards in this country, reminds me of Clark Gable’s last words in Gone with the Wind: They simply don’t give a damn.”

Dell: Getting Back to Business

Dell’s reasoning for going private with the company, which has been publicly traded for a quarter-century, is simple: The company has been on a quest to re-create itself, transforming from a computer vendor into a much more full-stack IT products provider, ramping up key areas like converged infrastructure, cloud and software. But Dell found conflict in trying to accomplish both that long-term goal and meeting the short-term needs of Wall Street and investors. Dell could level a similar argument against Wall Street to the one Icahn makes about the board of directors. To Dell’s mind, the financial community simply doesn’t give a damn about long-term gain that may impact short-term growth.

“We believe that our proposed new ownership will provide long-term support to help Dell innovate, invest for growth and accelerate our transformation strategy,” Michael Dell wrote in an open letter to shareholders earlier this year. “We’ll have the flexibility to continue organic and inorganic investment and drive industry-leading innovation.”

With the public drama out of the way and the battle won, Dell can get back to focusing all its efforts on that transformation, and accelerating the process, which it sees as key to its long-term success.

“We are going back to our roots, to the entrepreneurial spirit that made Dell one of the fastest growing, most successful companies in history,” Dell wrote in a letter to partners released after the deal was made public. “We’re unleashing the creativity and confidence that have always been the hallmarks of our culture.”

Dell’s letter describes the forces of cloud, Big Data, mobility and security as a transformation of people’s relationships to technology in the spirit of the transformation brought on by the PC revolution almost 30 years ago.

“Now it’s time to do what Dell does best — make these innovations simpler, more affordable and more accessible, putting more power into the hands of more people than ever before,” he wrote.

The move should remove the distractions channel partners faced from customers caught in the will-they, won’t-they drama. It will also allow Dell’s channel team to focus on building PartnerDirect and helping its partners make the same transition its making. Dell channel chief Greg Davis has been adamant the buyout matter hasn’t taken the company’s eye off the ball, with evidence including the recent expansion of the channel program to include Dell’s software properties. In an e-mail sent to partners on the heels of the vote being announced, Davis promises that focus will continue.

“I want to state clearly that our commitment to you remains unchanged and this milestone presents an opportunity to serve our customers even better,” Davis wrote to partners. “As a private enterprise, we will continue to execute our strategy of delivering best-in-class solutions and growing our channel business. Quite simply, I believe our channel partners will benefit from, and see the value of, our accelerated strategy and business approach.”