Thursday, March 28, 2013

Dell's Process: Go Shop or Store Closed?

There seems to be a distinct lack of buzz surrounding the Dell board's go shop process for the company. Here are some of the more puzzling developments.  First, as Fortune reports,
"Sources close to the situation say that Blackstone (BX) repeatedly requested the concession, threatening to otherwise walk away from the table during the "go-shop" process. Dell's (DELL) special committee eventually favored the move, believing that it would increase the odds of getting a superior offer."
The concession is that Dell would reimburse Blackstone for its due diligence costs, regardless of whether or not Blackstone were to make a serious, formal bid.  This makes no sense from the perspective of the current shareholders.

Also, Dell's former executive leader of mergers and acquisitions, Dave Johnson, moved to Blackstone in January 2013.   Among other acquisitions, he was responsible for the decision to acquire storage company Compellent and Quest Software, among others. If anyone knows where the bodies are buried and if anyone can do surgical due diligence on Dell, it should be Blackstone under Johnson's direction.

If Carl Icahn is not getting his due diligence fees reimbursed, and he hadn't even requested such a thing, then why on earth would the Dell board succumb to Blackstone's rather brazen ploy?

Southeastern Asset Management, apart from a puff piece in the New York Times about one of its founders, has been very quiet.

Finally, none of the rumors about who might run Dell in the future are comforting.  First is the rumor that founder Michael Dell would remain as CEO under a combined Blackstone/Icahn bid.  But, since the founder returned to spend billions in acquisitions and failed to energize the company's results since his return, is this a variation of the Jerry Yang story?  New money, new ideas and new management usually come together.

Finally, there is a rumor that HP/Oracle exec Mark Hurd would come to run the new Dell.  Now there's a scary thought for new investors.

Could it be that even with a peek under the covers, folks are trying to figure out a face saving exit for all concerned?

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