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Blackstone weighs Dell bid, considers new CEO

March 20, 2013: 4:14 PM ET
If not Michael, then who?

If not Michael, then who?

Blackstone is considering other Dell CEO candidates, just in case. Oracle's Mark Hurd is on the short list.

FORTUNE -- Michael Dell just wants everyone to leave him alone, while he tries to transform his eponymous PC company into the world's leading provider of enterprise services. So he partnered with private equity firm Silver Lake Partners on a $24.4 billion take-private bid, that would remove Dell from the regular purview of bank analysts and cable news talking heads. But there is a small chance that his power move could actually lead to his departure.

As has been previously reported, several companies and financiers are at least kicking the tires on a rival bid for Dell Inc. (DELL), during a "go-shop" process that concludes this Friday. They include, but are not necessarily limited to, The Blackstone Group (BX), Carl Icahn, Lenovo (LNVGY) and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ).

Michael Dell has promised Dell's special committee that he "will remain available to work in good faith with any competing bidder," and that he would "vote pro rata with the unaffiliated stockholders on any superior transaction recommended by the Special Committee or, at his option, in favor of such transaction." But there is no guarantee that he would actually partner with a rival bidder by agreeing to roll over his shares, or by sticking around as CEO.

Fortune has learned that Blackstone is seriously considering a bid, and that it would prefer to have Michael Dell on its side. If he prefers to remain tied to Silver Lake, however, Blackstone is trying to make contingency plans. Namely, this means using back channels to reach out to potential CEO replacements.

One of its top choices is Mark Hurd, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO who currently serves as president and a board member of Oracle (ORCL). Unclear if Hurd has reciprocated the interest, but Blackstone's informal recruiting effort is said to have been "aggressive."

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Another name mentioned has been Michael Capellas, the former Compaq Computer and First Data boss who most recently was chairman of virtual computing environment VCE (largely funded by Cisco and EMC). Capellas also serves as a senior advisor to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR), which last year had considered a Dell bid before dropping out of the process.

To be clear, there is no guarantee that Blackstone will make a formal bid -- let alone a quasi-hostile one. But it appears that the private equity giant is past the tire-kicking stage, and is now in the process of pursuing drivers.

Blackstone declined to comment.

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Dan Primack
Dan Primack
Senior Editor, Fortune

Dan Primack joined Fortune.com in September 2010 to cover deals and dealmakers, from Wall Street to Sand Hill Road. Previously, Dan was an editor-at-large with Thomson Reuters, where he launched both peHUB.com and the peHUB Wire email service. In a past journalistic life, Dan ran a community paper in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He currently lives just outside of Boston.

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