As a couple of private equity firms sorted out their bids for Dell last week, a few names bubbled to the top of the list of prospective new (that is, non-Michael Dell) CEOs.
Blackstone, a PE firm interested in bidding against Silver Lake Partners and Michael Dell for the company, reportedly reached out to Mark Hurd, co-president of Oracle and former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Dell’s nemesis. Hurd is charged, in part, with making Oracle’s hardware business as margin-rich as its software business, and so far that effort has been underwhelming. Financier Carl Icahn is also pursuing Dell, according to published reports.
Some have also mentioned Michael Capellas, the former CEO of Compaq who helped engineer its sale to HP for $25 billion in 2001. Then-HP CEO Carly Fiorina drove that deal. Capellas was more recently involved with The VCE Co. created by EMC and VMware.
But seriously people, if we’re going to play guessing games, let’s really play. Hurd and Capellas? Puh-leaze. Why not Louis Gerstner? Gerstner, who is credited with turning IBM around during his tenure there, has “got one more in him,” according to one of my panel of experts on Twitter.
Or how about Todd Bradley, HP’s PC guy who was passed over as CEO at least once and perhaps twice. What better way to strut his stuff than to reinvent HP’s biggest PC-and-server rival?
Or Dave Donatelli? The HP storage-and-servers guy is clearly not afraid to jump ship. His departure from EMC for rival HP in 2009 sparked a lawsuit.
As EVP and GM of HP’s Enterprise Group, Donatelli is responsible for “the development and delivery of server, storage, networking and technology services solutions”. That pretty much sounds like Dell’s mission statement — except for the enterprise part. As Dell’s president of software told me a week ago, Dell is more focused on SMBs than the largest enterprises, where IBM reigns.
And heck, if former HP CEOs carry a premium (why that might be is a mystery to some), why not Fiorina herself?
Others think Gerry Smith, who heads up Lenovo’s U.S. operations, would be an interesting pick. Or Carol Bartz, former CEO of Autodesk and then Yahoo.
Or, Y.K. Kim, CEO of Samsung Electronics America. Now there’s a company that knows from success.
Intel’s outgoing CEO Paul Otellini could be looking for work.
But, since Dell is fashioning itself as a sort of IBM for the small and medium business (SMB) set, it really needs more Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) expertise. Maybe they should hire someone from Saleforce.com or Box?
One of my Twitter experts put it this way: “The market for SMB is pure SaaS plus cloud and only enterprises, [service providers], and government [accounts] will be buying hardware,” he noted.
If the new bids from Blackstone and activist Carl Icahn gel, Dell’s board has a few more days to sort through them and make its decision. Dealbook has a good explanation of the process as it will unfold now.
Of course, this new CEO discussion, as entertaining as it is, may be moot if the Michael Dell and Silver Lake Partners buyout bid wins the day. If that’s the case, presumably Mr. Dell will remain CEO if he so desires. If not, let the games begin again.