Activist investor Carl Icahn has decided to end his pursuit of PC maker Dell after a 14-month struggle to thwart a buyout offer from founder Michael Dell and his ally, the investment firm Silver Lake Partners. The Dell camp is looking to privatize the company as part of an ambitious plan to shift its focus from the shrinking PC market to the enterprise.
Icahn proposed to recapitalize the computer maker with a $15.6 billion self tender that would have left the company public while providing shareholders with a handsome dividend, as well as the option to buy additional shares in the future. The offer gained the backing of Yacktman Asset Management and several other prominent investors, but hit a stumbling block after a group of big-name advisory firms led by Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) gave their blessings to Michael Dell.
The final nail in the coffin came when the board subcommittee charged with supervising the company’s sale heeded the CEO’s call to change investor voting terms – so that non-votes would not count as ‘no’ votes in the upcoming ballot over the company’s future.
Icahn wrote in an open letter to fellow shareholders: “We have determined that it would be almost impossible to win the battle on September 12th. We have therefore come to the conclusion that we will not pursue additional efforts to defeat the Michael Dell/Silver Lake proposal.” He went on to compare the subcommittee to a “totalitarian dictatorship.”
Icahn has abandoned his ambition to take control of Dell, but the company is not out of the woods yet. The hedge fund bigwig plans to get his stock appraised, a risky move that could force Dell and Silver Lake to shell out more than their current offer of $13.75 per share.