Why Is Dell Heating Up? Shareholders Feel Burned

Dell’s deal puts activist investors in an unusual role.

In this Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012, photo, the sun is reflected in the exterior of Dell Inc.'s offices in Santa Clara, Calif.
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In a sign that times have changed, it's the activists, not management, who are trying to keep Dell a publicly traded company that pays a large dividend to spend down its cash and keep loyal shareholders happy. Michael Dell and his management group want to take all of the equity themselves, and would most likely sell the transformed company back to the public later at a profit when tech stocks command higher valuations.

[See Meet the New Activist Investors: Not Just Raiders Anymore]

Other computer makers and investment firm Blackrock Investment Management are also reported to be interested. With so many parties circling, and outside investors now owning as much of the company as its founder, it's likely to be a long fight. Icahn has vowed "years of litigation."

None of this will launch Dell back to the $100 billion price tag it once commanded. But it's already lifted the stock and put the much-ignored PC company back into the public eye for the first time in years. Expect more of the same to come.