Talking tech since 2003

The long-simmering feud between Dell’s shareholders and its founder and CEO Michael Dell seems to be coming to a head. Today, investor and billionaire Carl Icahn published a press release addressed to Dell stockholders today announcing that he’s lined up an investor to pump in $1.6 billion in order to prevent the publicly traded computer company from going private once again. In addition, “Icahn and his affiliates would make available $2 billion if necessary to facilitate this commitment,” the press release reads.

This conflict has been brewing since February, when Michael Dell and private equity firm Silver Lake announced their plan to buy the company’s shares back from stockholders at $13.65 per share as a part of a $24.4 billion deal. Icahn, for his part, is working with Southeastern Asset Management to try and stop the deal and keep the company public.

To do that, says the press release, Southeastern has sold its 72 million shares to Icahn in order to make the latter the largest external shareholder, and therefore give him and his company better leverage to put keep Dell from going private. The release also notes that, all together, Icahn and Southeastern own roughly 13 percent of all of Dell’s shares, though a post on CNN’s Fortune blog puts Icahn and Southeastern’s ownership percentage closer to 11.5 percent.

Icahn’s open letter also asks Dell’s board of directors to engage in a $16 billion tender offer, which would end up valuing the company’s stock at $14 a share, rather than the $13.65 that the Silver Lake deal would pay shareholders. That would open the doors for someone else—like, say, Carl Icahn—to come in and buy Dell at a higher price and keep the company public.

Will it work? We’ve looked into this conflict before and speculated that, well, no, it probably won’t. But in the world of billionaires and computer giants, you never can tell just what will happen. In the meantime, we’ll have to wait about a month for the shareholder meeting to see what effect, if any, Icahn and Southeastern’s machinations will have.

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