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Friday, May 13, 2005

Michael Dell likes Red Hat

At age 40, Michael Dell's personal wealth is estimated at $16B. Dell gave his initials to a NYC-based investment company MSD Capital which manages $10B of his fortune by investing in real estate among other areas. This week, news emerged that in January of 2004, MSD Capital decided to spend $100M to buy 3.9 million RHAT shares. Remember, Dell Inc. resells Linux software on its servers and was an early investor in Red Hat (a direct competitor to Microsoft). At first, given my respect for Michael Dell as a visionary and a business man, I read this transaction as: Red Hat is onto something very interesting. But when you think about it, MSD Capital may have made the decision to invest without Dell's involvement or blessing.

Another question I had was: does this mean that Dell Inc. is preparing the acquisition of Red Hat? But they have never acquired a software company. Would it be a smart move? I don't think so, the majority of PCs sold by Dell still run Windows, the last thing Dell wants to do is upset the Redmond titan. Unless Microsoft buys Red Hat, wouldn't that be interesting?

Also, MSD made other investments in completely different areas such as restaurant chains IHOP and Steak n Shake. So Red Hat could simply be part of a diversification strategy. Finally, since MSD's investment, RHAT shares dropped by about 45% percent. So may be there is not much to conclude from MSD's $100M move.

Read more about the Dell Inc. / Red Hat corporate alliance.

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