Still, such a scenario might be a disappointing conclusion to Dell's multi-decade run in public stock markets. Dell has spent recent years collecting billions in fast growing services businesses and its offshore bank account has accumulated billions more given the PC-maker's reluctance to invest heavily on mobile devices like tablets.
The cash flow of Dell's PC business and the value of its services business give the company a real prospect of joining the likes of turnarounds such as
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under CEO Meg Whitman's leadership, as Icahn noted in a recent presentation.
Corporate turnarounds, despite uncertainty and the frequency of failure, are one of the hallmarks of American capitalism. They often prove an alignment of incentives between Wall Street and corporate boards can make businesses nimble, better run and more entrepreneurial.
Unfortunately, Dell's takeover drama may end not as a referendum on the company's prospects in new strategy, but instead a short-term focus on price and financial engineering. If Dell gets bought at $13.65 a share, $14 a share or $15 a share, it will not be a turnaround.
Carl Icahn still has articulated a better vision for Dell as a corporate turnaround, even if it likely won't take much of a price increase for the Michael Dell and Silver Lake consortium to win over skeptical shareholders.
-- Written by Antoine Gara in New York.