In the early days, as he was building an enormous business success almost out of nothing, plenty of people were slow to realize that Michael Dell was going to become one of the giants of the personal computer industry.
Dell was derided as being a mere "clone-maker" -- a technology follower who made a fortune on the coattails of innovations by Intel Corp. and others.
He wasn't put on the same pedestal as Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft who became a key Dell business ally, or Steve Jobs, the maniacally creative co-founder of Apple.
It took a while for the public to realize that Dell -- introverted, reserved and tightly scripted in public -- had his own creative genius going on. Dell wasn't a technology visionary; instead, he was a tech-savvy business pioneer.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the University of Texas dropout helped create and perfect a new magic formula for computer industry success that caused his company and his personal fortune to take off like a rocket ship.
In recent years, that rocket ship has returned to earth. Dell Inc.'s growth has slowed, profits have dropped, and the stock price at the start of this year was a fraction of what it was 13 years ago. Now, two decades later, an older and wiser Michael Dell is telling the world he wants to recreate that magic and shake up the computer industry one more time.
Now, as he approaches his 48th birthday this month, Dell has unveiled a $24 billion buyout plan that amounts to a huge bet to create a new business success in a world that tends to regard the PC as yesterday's technology.
It is a bold move -- and a risky one. There are plenty of doubters about whether he can succeed.
Dell hasn't granted any interviews in the past week, but he offered some clues last week in a message to company employees: "Dell (Inc.) is a relatively young company and I'm a (relatively) young CEO. There is much more we can accomplish together and I am committed to this journey."
Despite his billions of dollars in personal wealth, Michael Dell isn't done yet. He still cares deeply about the company that bears his name and still thinks he has something to prove to the rest of the information technology industry.
'Personal credibility on the line'
Taking Dell Inc. from a publicly traded company makes both personal sense and business sense to some analysts who track the PC industry.
Fixing the business can translate into a big winning investment for Michael Dell, and it can show that he still has the drive and the smarts to shake up the computer industry even when PCs are no longer the dominant tech products they once were.
Analysts say Dell is out to bolster his standing in the industry and make a lot of money doing it.
"This is his personal credibility on the line," said analyst Patrick Moorhead with Moor Insights and Strategy. "Money is one thing, but making a personal commitment for the long haul is more meaningful. He has all the money he needs for a couple of lifetimes, but a personal commitment transcends all that money."
Analyst Cindy Shaw with Discern Investment put it another way: Michael Dell's motivation for the buyout is "reputation and greed, in our view."
"We believe Michael Dell is once again hungry. Thirty years ago, we think he hungered for success and wealth. In 2013, we think he hungers to restore his legacy and (his) personal balance sheet," Shaw said. "While we doubt he is as hungry or energetic now as he was in his youth, today he has all the advantages of a global footprint, brand name recognition and connections."
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