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Michael Dell Enjoys Life Without the "90-Day Shot Clock" (Q&A)

A year after a $25 billion buyout, Dell's founder and CEO is feeling like a winner.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images via Thinkstock

For the record, Michael Dell loves running a private company.

Ask him and he’s quick to tell you about all the advantages of being privately versus publicly held. After numerous quarters of running up against the expectations of shareholders, now there’s no one to report to every quarter but himself and his partners at Silver Lake, the private equity firm that helped him finance the $25 billion buyout of the company last year.

It has been a year since Dell shares ceased trading on the Nasdaq after a drawn-out battle for control of the company with the rabble-rousing investor Carl Icahn and his partisans.

On Tuesday, Re/code caught up with the CEO and founder of the company that conquered the personal computer industry in the ’90s and used that market presence to evolve into one of the largest enterprise computing and IT companies in the world. The occasion was the Dell World conference in Austin, where he delivered a keynote address today. Here’s a sampling of our conversation:

Re/code: What’s the best part of running a private company versus a publicly held one?

Dell: I’d say it’s all good. We now get to focus all of our energy on our customers and their success. And it’s working. We’re seeing double-digit market share growth in our client (PC) business and in our data center business. And we’re seeing growth in all our geographic regions. When you add it all up, Dell is the fastest-growing large IT company in the world. And we’re no longer beholden to the expectations of shareholders, or as I like to call it, the 90-day shot clock. Also no activist shareholders.

So it’s a year later after a big transition for you, and now your biggest rival, Hewlett-Packard, has started a transition of its own, with the decision to split in two. Is that an opportunity for you?

We certainly think it’s an opportunity, particularly with HP partners who are concerned about how the disruption and the chaos brought on by the split will affect them. … Any way you slice it there’s going to be a period of confusion and turmoil at HP where there is an internal focus. We absolutely see an opportunity, and we’re all over it.

What do you think about the decision by HP to split?

Go back to what they said about why they didn’t split when they first thought about doing it in 2011. We think there’s an incredible connection between the commercial PC business and the server business. There hasn’t been a single case in the industry where those businesses have been separated and they both remain successful. When IBM sold its PC business to Lenovo, it lit the fuse on the de-scaling of its x86 server business. At the end, it left them unable to compete, and when they finally sold they had less than seven percent of the market.

How is your enterprise-facing business doing?

We’re seeing very nice growth, especially in storage products. A few weeks ago, IDC reported that we shipped more terabytes of storage products in the first half of the year than EMC, IBM or HP. That business grew by 14.3 percent and each of the other three saw declines. That’s a dramatic shift in share.

Are you on the hunt for more M&A deals? Before you went private, you made several acquisitions.

We have a lot of financing capabilities, and we’ll be evaluating opportunities as they come. We’re also making minority investments in promising startups through Dell Ventures, and I think you’ll see us doing that at a rate of one or two per month.

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