Michael Dell Talks About Covid, China, and Facing Carl Icahn
(Bloomberg Businessweek) -- Michael Dell founded Dell when he was a 19-year-old college student. He ranks 24th on Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index with a net worth of around $53 billion. Dell took his company private in 2013, then public again in 2018. His new book is called Play Nice But Win: A CEO’s Journey From Founder to Leader.
Companies spent a lot on IT during the pandemic. Do you have concerns about slowing growth, since much of that may have been an acceleration of spending that would have happened anyway?
If you think about hybrid work, that feels like it’s becoming more of a permanent way that work gets done. That’s been an enormous stimulant for us.
When will supply and demand for things like semiconductors get back in step?
It takes about three years to build a new semiconductor plant. We’re only 18 months into this. We’ve heard from our customers that our supply chain is functioning well. They may not like the lead time, but it’s predictable and reliable.
The chip shortage has revived talk of European or U.S. hardware and chip manufacturing. Is that necessary?
When you have China investing so aggressively in these strategic areas and the U.S. and Europe not, it creates a real challenge. Having government support to create the infrastructure of the future, given the importance of these industries, I’d support that.
Other executives have said recently that the labor crunch we’re seeing has driven up wages for everyone from hourly workers to executives. Have you had to raise wages to retain talent?
We’re always adjusting compensation and benefits, and I’m pretty pleased with our attrition. Our job is to create an inspiring and passionate environment where people can do their best work. I think if we keep doing that we’ll be just fine.
The title of your book is Play Nice But Win. Was it hard for you to play nice with Carl Icahn when he bought a stake in Dell and tried to block your plans to reenter the public markets?
I didn’t really have much experience dealing with someone who would just go on television and lie. Ultimately, as I talked about in my book, I did go to his house and confront him, and I saw he didn’t have any plan whatsoever for the company. To him it was just a big poker game.
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