Dell: Private Parts

After 30 years or so Michael Dell is taking his baby private again. Good for him.

Why on earth wouldn't he? Who, in their right mind, would suffer the stupidity and often indignity of being endlessly questioned for your every move - by a 28 year old who has never had a real job let alone run a real company?

Why would anyone want to be perpetually Monday morning quarterbacked?

Why would anyone other than the truly perverse welcome an uncomfortable rectal exam daily?

No one would - unless the pain, suffering, and foolishness was tolerated for a bigger "good" - namely, money.

The stock market avails entrepreneurs and private money people the opportunity to "exit" - to cash out on their hard work and brilliance (the entrepreneurs, that is - normally the money guys are simply lucky sperm), but that comes along with selling your corporate soul to the devil.

Once you take public money you are no longer beholden to your own values, your products, your customers, or your employees. First and foremost, you are beholden to your stockholders. Stockholders care about one thing - return on their investment. Everything else is superfluous noise.

Thus, when the quest for returns outweighs the "long term" strategic objectives of the business (long term = 91 days +), the business ceases to operate as a platform for "good" (for said entrepreneur, employees, customers, etc.) and instead operates to spit as much money as is possible into the hands of those who control the stock. While this is not necessarily evil, it tends to be that way.

Don't feel bad for the company that goes public - they know exactly what they are doing - and why.

In the case of Dell, there no longer is any value in dealing with Wall St. for Mr. Dell, et. al. He/they already have all the money they could ever want, so why bother to suffer fools if they don't have to? Now he/they can operate the business with a long term strategy - focus on products, customers, and employees instead of the 28 year old controlling a billion bucks of stock without ever having a real job, and try to get something done.

In transformative markets, being public can DESTROY a company. It forces you to focus on the wrong things - and often leads to death. The times have changed - and so too must Dell in order to remain relevant.

Old Mr. Dell (a year younger than me, the bastard) must have woken up six months ago and finally figured out that he didn't need to deal with this crap anymore. He could put a pile of his own money in (because really, how much does anyone need? After a billion or two it really becomes a nuisance!) and now work for himself - doing what he/they think best for the real stakeholders of the business - the employees and the customers.

There probably is something to the fact that his name is on the building, every product, and is itself a cultural icon, but frankly I'm not sure I read too much into that. The guy is a work animal and always has been. I don't see it changing. It's just now he can do things for his own reasons - not someone else's. Will he get it wrong? Possibly, but at least he'll do it on his terms, for his motivations -which aren't tarnished with having to make money for others any longer.

I for one, will enjoy watching. It's like Tom Brady still playing. You may love him or hate him, but he continues to play and compete at the very highest level for himself alone, not you or I. What does he have left to accomplish? He married Giselle, makes more money than god, is irritatingly good looking, and is a genuinely nice guy. It would be much easier for him to simply head off into the sunset. Same goes for Michael. He is young, rich, has a great family and life - and has little or nothing to gain personally - but still wants to play.

You don't pull guys like that off the field until they decide it's time. Michael just assured himself that he will make that decision - not some punk ass 28 year old. Good for him.

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