Intrigue heightens on Dell buyout

SAN FRANCISCO — Michael Dell is about to find out if other bidders think his technology company is worth more than he does.

The answer could come today, which marks the end of a 45-day period that Dell Inc.'s board of directors settled on to allow for offers that might top a Feb. 5 agreement to sell the personal computer maker to CEO Michael Dell and a group of investors for $24.4 billion.

With the deadline looming, buyout specialist Blackstone Group is emerging as the most likely candidate to trump the current bid of $13.65 per share.

Blackstone is so intrigued with the prospect of owning Dell that the firm has been courting former Hewlett-Packard Co. CEO Mark Hurd to run Dell if it decides to mount a hostile takeover attempt, according to a person familiar with the situation. The person asked not to be identified because the discussions between Blackstone and Hurd are considered confidential.

Several other buyout scenarios tying Blackstone to Dell have been leaked to the media this week, another indication that the New York firm is mulling a bid that could scuttle the debt-laden deal that the company reached with Michael Dell and Silver Lake Partners.

Dell Inc. says today's deadline for competing offers could be extended if its board believes other suitors would benefit from more time to examine Dell's books and hash out other details before making an offer.


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