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Sara Grillo
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Sara Grillo, CFA, is an Italian-American entrepreneur, investment manager, award-winning financial author, and professor of finance.
My company:
Grillo Investment Management, LLC
  • A Dell Without Dell 0 comments
    Jun 24, 2013 9:31 AM | about stocks: EMC, XRX, HPQ, AAPL, DELL

    Blackstone has stepped in with a bid to buy the Dell Computer business (NASDAQ: DELL) and kick Michael Dell to the curb. Michael D was apparently shocked that Blackstone didn't ask him first before announcing this plan to the world. What is astounding is that Dell hasn't already volunteered to fire himself from this position. He used to have game going on like Donkey Kong but somewhere along the line he lost his creativity and penchant for innovation. Not only did he miss the mobile trend, he's now trying to get into the burgeoning market for IT security - but it won't be cheap. Buying companies in a hot industry means valuations are likely to be rich. Moreover, competitors IBM and a host of other companies are moving into the enterprise software market. Those companies are a step behind and he's a step behind them. It's as if he's fighting for last place. It seems like Dell has lost the capacity to adapt in an industry where the inability to innovate is a lethal flaw.

    Maybe Dell is just not meant to be the leader of this type of firm anymore. While he stunned the world as a start-up entrepreneur, he has displayed a less than stellar track record leading Dell as a mature corporation. The stock price is in the tank, financials have been on the skids and senior management has been turning over like Central Park's Carousel over the last few years. Worst of all, Michael D has demonstrated questionable business etiquette. Perhaps the reason for this subpar performance is that he focused his attention on things like smack attacking Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) on Twitter a few years ago. You don't really see Twitter trash talking a key component of many high powered CEOs' daily agendas. Michael D has become to the tech world what Terrell Owens is to the NFL or Kevin Garnett is to the NBA.

    It doesn't look like the PC market is coming back anytime soon. The world is sprinting - not walking or crawling, but sprinting - towards life revolving around the mobile phone. It's apps apps apps to the max! Even Microsoft is having a hard time getting users to adopt Office 365. Facebook had to get a dedicated Samsung phone for its application to accommodate this mobile trend. Eventually there won't even be a need for Excel spreadsheets as MS office software becomes displaced by cell phone apps.

    However, it goes too far to say that Michael D should join the tech junkyard. He has been shaken rattled and rolled as the Dell CEO but here are some viable career paths that he could pursue if Blackstone forces him out.

    Design Video Games. He'll be richer than Carlos Slim if he's any good at this. Here's what's important to people now: FaceBook, Tweeting, text messaging, and video games. If you don't embrace these, you can't fit in with anyone else. You can't call someone and leave a voice message because nobody even checks those anymore. They're busy with PlayStation 3. After that's done then they have to Tweet their PlayStation results or share them with friends on FaceBook right along with the discussion of Dancing with the Stars, Survivor, or American Idol, or maybe the latest episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Once their friends get the RSS feed then maybe they'll respond to your voicemail by sending you a request for a Google Plus hangout. This scenario serves as an example of how digital technology has increased the quality of life greatly for our society.

    Without expounding upon the reasons why people play video games, the fact is that they consume billions of hours of billions of people's free time. At the present time, a little over two thirds of the world engages in this form of entertainment.[1] It's not just the teeny boppers; 25 percent of players are over age 50.[2] More than half a billion people play videogames for at least an hour a day.[3]

    Professional hacker. He could put his technical skills to work hacking the cloud like everyone else with programming skills is doing. The Amazon public cloud was recently hacked. Cloud computing is the junk bond of the computing world and it's a ripe target for hacking, yet people still buy it due to its low price. Apparently nobody learned that the $10 all you can eat buffet always leaves you with some indigestion.

    Professional Social Media Specialist. Dell could utilize his exceptional Tweeting skills in engagement campaigns for other companies. He could write trash talk on Twitter as PR for notorious smack talkers like Kobe Bryant or Kevin Garnett.

    Join HP. Better to go work for Meg Whitman, someone who actually knows how to be a CEO. HP (NYSE: HPQ) is now poaching all the clients from Dell anyways so why not just make it easier by joining his rival firm voluntarily? This way, MD can just migrate over his client relationships to Meg's firm and save her the trouble of having to take them out for cocktails once a month and send a follow up email the next day. Dell clients will gladly migrate; they won't be very happy after Blackstone's poisonous LBO. Although it seems unlikely that the current state of Dell's customer service could get any worse; every issue is troubleshot by wiping out the entire hard drive and reinstalling it using the startup CD, then rebooting the PC.

    Join Xerox. Work for Xerox (NYSE: XRX) producing copy machines because he's not an innovator anymore - but he is great at copying what others do!

    Join EMC. Michael D would fit well at EMC (NYSE: EMC), a firm just as shabby as his own in terms of being behind the eight ball. They lacked the intel to figure out that in order to maintain market share they should have put security tokens on mobile phones before the rest of the industry did.

    Start a Hardware Recycling Company. Maybe he could found a company that recycles PC hardware. With the digital handheld "asset light" theme of today's world, clunky PC's are a thing of the past. Perhaps Dell should start a business disposing of the PC's that he sold us years ago as we discard them for our Samsung or Apple devices.

    It's always sad to see a breakup happen, but perhaps Dell is better off without Dell. It's not as if Michael doesn't have very lucrative skills that can earn him a paycheck elsewhere in the technology sector. As I reflected upon in my post How to Solve a Rubiks Cube, entrepreneurship is the lifeblood of our languishing economy. Instead of plea bargaining for a spot on a sinking ship, maybe Michael D should tap his creativity and entrepreneurial spirit.

    Disclaimers

    This is neither an offer to sell nor the solicitation of an offer to purchase any interest in GIM or any other investments discussed. This publication is for informational purposes only; it is not intended to be a solicitation, offering, or recommendation by Grillo Investment Management, LLC of any product, security, transaction, or service. It should not in any way be interpreted as investment, financial, tax, or legal advice.

    An investment in any security discussed herein may be speculative, and may involve a high degree of risk. An investor in securities could lose all or a substantial amount of his or her investment. Investors should conduct thorough analysis on their own before investing in any investment vehicle. The risks of investing in international markets include currency fluctuations and political instabilities.

    This presentation and its contents are proprietary information of GIM and may not be reproduced or otherwise disseminated in whole or in part without GIM's consent. All data herein was obtained from publicly available information and/or sources, internally developed data, and other sources believed to be reliable. Except as otherwise stated, GIM has not sought to independently verify information obtained from public or third party sources and makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, regarding the accuracy, completeness, or reliability of such information.

    Hypothetical and forward looking statements should not be taken as an indication or guarantee of any future performance, analysis, forecast, or prediction. Past, pro forma, hypothetical, projected, or suggested performance of any investment or portfolio of investments is not necessarily indicative of future performance. Dividend rates are not guaranteed payments, nor can they guarantee a rate of return.

    The S&P 500 Index consists of 500 selected stocks, all of which are listed on the exchange, the NYSE or NASDAQ, and spans over 24 separate industry groups. It tracks the performance of the US large cap equity market. Indexes are unmanaged and investors are not able to invest directly into any index. Dividend rates are not guaranteed payments, nor can they guarantee a rate of return.


    [1] Thompson, Greg. "How Many People Play Video Games?" Love to Know Online. April 6, 2012.

    [2] Lehrman, Robert A. "Video Game Nation: Why So Many Play." The Christian Science Monitor. March 18, 2012.

    [3] TED Ideas Worth Spreading. We spend 3 billion hours a week as a planet playing videogames. Is it worth it? How could it be MORE worth it? Jane McGonigal Conversation. April 6, 2012.

    Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

    Stocks: EMC, XRX, HPQ, AAPL, DELL
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