The Wall Street Journal and several other news outlets have reported that Blackstone Group L.P. (NYSE: BX) and Carl Icahn will make a bid to take Dell Inc. (NASDAQ: DELL) private via an LBO. Founder Michael Dell and PE firm Silver Lake have already made one, for $13.65 a share. At least two large Dell shareholders — Southeastern Asset Management Inc., T. Rowe Price Group — have objected to the low level of the offer.
One of the risks of these two competing offers, and perhaps others, depending on whether Dell is broken into pieces as part of the process, is the distraction it causes for management and employees. Michael Dell will stay if his bid is accepted. In the meantime, he is an CEO in absentia, as he spends his time with lawyers and investment bankers.
Dell would likely be thrown out by Blackstone, although not without a reward. His shares of Dell would be turned into cash. Already among the world’s richest men–his holdings would be even more liquid. There is speculation that former Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) CEO Mark Hurd would run Dell for Blackstone. Hurd is currently co-president of Oracle Corp. (NASDAQ: ORCL) where he will not be CEO, at least as long as founder Larry Ellison lives.
Hurd is known to be a brutal cost cutters, and a man who makes acquisitions and divestitures on the fly. Dell could be restructured in months, with thousands fired or moved to spin offs. Once again, management could spend more time on M&A in the next year than on operations. No company benefits from that on an operational effort. Dell is bound to be hurt.
Dell already sits years behind the world’s top tech firms. It has neither the new age smartphones and tablets of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Samsung, nor the huge enterprise and software operations of International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM). It is caught in the world of ancient technologies when PCs and mid-level servers were important.
Dell will change hands, and will be restructured, one way of another. A troubled company cannot be involved in months and months of turmoil. Through the M&A process, Dell will be put at even greater risk of ever being repaired