Is Marvell Technology Being Readied for a Takeover?

Rick Hill has never been shy when it comes to corporate takeovers, having helped push a slew of companies onto the auction block over the past several years.

And ever since activist hedge fund Starboard Value purchased a roughly 6.7% stake in semiconductor maker Marvell Technology  (MRVL) in February, the hedge fund has been quick to help seat Hill at the head of Marvell's board. Many now view recent management shake-ups at the helm of Marvell -- including the July appointment of former Maxim Integrated (MXIM) vice president Matthew Murphy as CEO -- as indicative that Marvell could be positioning itself for a takeover.

"If Rick Hill gets on, then you're going to buy the stock -- period," Real Money's Jim Cramer told TheStreet just prior to Hill's appointment to the board in May, highlighting Hill's success as chairman and CEO in leading Novellus Systems from 1996 to its $3 billion sale to Lam Research (LRCX) in 2012. Shares of the company have climbed about 31% since Hill's induction to the board.

As an independent director, Hill also managed to help guide LSI Group with its $6.6 billion sale to Avago Technologies  (AVGO) , which is now listed as Broadcom, in 2013. Hill also served as a director to Planar Systems throughout its $157 million sale to China's Leyard Optoelectronic, which closed last fall.

Hill's strong track record implies that M&A is certainly on the table for Marvell, Morningstar analyst Abhinav Davuluri told The Deal's Jaewon Kang in a Monday phone interview. And while the chipmaker will most likely remain a standalone firm in short term, it is likely Marvell is having discussions about piecemeal selloffs, he added.

Marvell has been grappling with a host of issues, including accounting-related litigation with Carnegie Mellon University, over which Marvell recognized a $736 million liability in its most recent quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, highlighting a February settlement with Carnegie Mellon University over a patent infringement suit relating to an integrated circuit used as part of some of Marvell's hard-drive-disk products.

Such problems likely muddied the M&A prospects for a potential acquirer, according to Davuluri, but the company has come a long way since an internal accounting probe last fall led to the ouster of Marvell's founders -- former CEO Sehat Sutardja and former president Weili Dai -- in April.

Hill replaced Sutardja as chairman of the board in May, and his first objectives included resolving the accounting investigation, which caused the firm to delay its annual 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

"Marvell probably is on the route of doing something on the M&A front," an industry source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, also said in a Monday phone interview with Kang. "I think they will sell parts of it. I don't think there would be a buyer for the whole thing."

Marvell is starting to move toward a direction where it can unlock value after being broken for quite a while. Specifically, Marvell's storage unit, the company's largest segment, could be appealing to firms including Seagate Technology (STX) or Micron Technology  (MU) , the person suggested, noting Marvell's larger peers like Broadcom may be interested in the chipmaker's networking business. (Marvell largely exited its mobile business last year, but the division's remaining "Internet of Things" and connectivity assets could still be on the table).

Hill's track record also includes having ascended the ranks of Tessera Technologies  (TSRA) from board member in 2012 to chairman in 2013. Tessera's market cap has more than doubled since he first signed on. And Starboard also helped to foist Hill onto Yahoo's (YHOO) board on April 27, along with three other new board members, including Starboard CEO Jeffrey Smith.

Hill also currently serves on the boards of public companies including Autodesk  (ADSK) and Tessera Technologies, based on data provided by BoardEx.

-- TheDeal's Jaewon Kang contributed to this report.

This article was first published on Real Money at 10:42 a.m. on August 23.

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