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Michael Dell mulls taking PC colossus private

Shareholders begone

Michael Dell told a conclave of moneymen on Thursday that he has considered taking his eponymous PC maker private.

This off-the-cuff revelation was in response to a question from an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein's 26th annual Strategic Decisions Conference in New York City.

According to Reuters and others, Dell answered "Yes" when asked Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi if had thought of taking the company private, but declined to answer a follow-up question about what would prompt him to more-fully consider such a move.

He quickly covered his tracks. According to a raw transcript provided by FactSet CallStreet, Dell said that he was "totally committed to continuing to run the business for a long period of time" and that he has "every intention to continue running the company for the foreseeable future".

Dell's admission that he had considered taking the company private caused Dell stock to jump by as much as 6.4 per cent on Thursday — but as of mid-day Friday (in a broadly declining market), it had sunk by over 4 per cent.

Since he founded his company in 1984 — famously on $1,000 and the idea of direct-to-customer computer sales — Dell has been its chairman of the board. He was CEO until 2004, and resumed that role in 2007. He's also his company's largest shareholder: according to a recent SEC filing, Dell held 11.69 per cent of the company's stock as of April 15, 2010.

Dell — both the company and the man — had a meteoric rise in the 80s and 90s, but have fallen on harder times since. In late 2009, the company fell to number three among PC makers worldwide, behind HP and Acer. ®

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