One of the biggest names in tech in Texas has had a complicated few days. Michael Dell, Chairman and CEO of computer and computer services giant Dell wants to buy back his company from shareholders. The idea is once the company is private, it will have room to rebuild itself for the longer term without the short-term demands of a publicly-traded stock. But a powerful Dell shareholder, Carl Icahn, is reportedly now pushing for more money than is on offer, a development that could upset the deal.
Although we were told Michael Dell couldn’t address the buyout, it did come up during a rare interview at the Dell headquarters outside Austin.
On his vision for Dell in the next five years:
Dell is really evolving towards the ability to provide end-to-end solutions for our customers. And of course, we started out with PCs and servers, and as the company has grown and developed, what we’ve found is that products alone were unable to solve all the challenges and opportunities that customers have presented us. So you’ve seen us move aggressively into services, software, deeper into the data center.
On taking Dell private:
It’s a very exciting time for our company. Our board recently announced that it agreed with myself and a firm called Silver Lake to take the company private, which means the company will be even more founder-led than it was in its first few decades. I think this is very good for our customers. It gives our shareholders an opportunity to take advantage of some of the benefits of the things that we are doing as a company without taking on all the risks that I and Silver Lake will bear.
On what led Dell to its uncertain position today:
This isn’t necessarily easy stuff. When I think about our business, the company started as a product company and we grew quite successfully. The first eight years, we grew 80 percent per year, the six years after that we grew 60 percent per year. What we are doing [now] is building broad new capabilities. I think our customers resonate with that. So we are seeing a lot of acceptance as we are building out these new solutions.
On why Dell is headquartered in Texas instead of Silicon Valley:
I think companies are coming [here]. Texas is a great place to do business. We’ve been very fortunate to be here. It’s been a fantastic place to attract and grow talent. The quality of life here is fantastic, very rich culture. What I’ll also tell you about any company — especially a great company — is you find a great company, you’ll find a great university nearby. We have that here in Austin. It’s just a wonderful, wonderful place.
On tech’s role in solving world problems:
The largest opportunities and challenges are really heavily influence by technology and technology can help address those. So you think about what’s going on in education, in health care, the environment, energy — technology is actually a big part of the solution. Our foundation, using some of the opportunities I’ve had personally in creating this company, has given us a chance to really make a difference.
On whether running Dell is still as fun as it was at the beginning:
Yeah, it’s a lot of fun. We are doing epic stuff here. This is about growth. This is about the long-term in our business. It’s about doing the right things for our customers, and creating the next generation of growth and success in our business.
To hear Marketplace Tech host David Brancaccio’s full interview with Michael Dell, click on the audio player above.