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Dell: Article

Dell Dumps Rollins

Michael Dell has come back to clean up the mess left by CEO Kevin Rollins

Michael Dell has come back to clean up the mess left by CEO Kevin Rollins, whose immediate resignation was accepted late Wednesday after the market closed.

Rollins is gone from the Dell board as well as its executive suite.

His departure has been widely expected, despite Michael's insistent public backing of his lieutenant. Dell offered no reason why Rollins is gone now. It may be that he was given a performance deadline and failed because along with the notice of his resignation, Dell said that it expects its fiscal Q4 results to be below First Call estimates of both earnings and revenues.

Wall Street was expecting 32 cents a share on revenues of $15.3 billion. Dell's financial results are due March 1.

Michael has taken over as CEO - permanently, he says - and retains his position as chairman.

Dell's board issued a statement saying that it "believes that Michael's vision and leadership are critical to building Dell's leadership in the technology industry for the long term. There is no better person in the world to run Dell at this time than the man who created the Direct Model and who has built this company over the last 23 years."

It remains to be seen whether that optimism is well placed. Building a company is a lot different than clawing back with a new vision and Michael hasn't really run the company on his own since Rollins got there in 1996 and they created the Office of the CEO. Highly placed ex-Dell guys doubt Michael's the boy.

Under Rollins, CEO for only two-and-a-half years, Dell tanked. Growth evaporated. Service went to hell. Dell lost its pricing advantage and its lack of retail channels has proved disastrous. The company had to recall four million laptop batteries. HP, itself a comeback story, started eating Dell's market share. Dell missed several quarters and it's had a completely opaque internal investigation into its books going on seemingly forever, the SEC and the Justice Department have been crawling all over it, its long-time CFO resigned in December, and it hasn't filed a financial report with the SEC since last spring.

Dell's battered stock, down 31% the last few years, perked up briefly on the news but closed down 42 cents Thursday at $23.80.

About the vision thing… Credit Suisse remarks that "innovative products and solutions are once again resonating with customers, a dynamic which favors companies with IP." It suggests that Dell buy itself some, offering blade servers and storage as possible areas as well as "tweaking its delivery model to include indirect distribution in certain geographies and product segments."

On his reappointment, Michael said he would build up the company's higher-margin consulting services. Dell recently hired Stephen Schuckenbrock, an EDS veteran, to run that unit. Otherwise Michael seems determined to stick with his direct model and improve its supply chain and manufacturing.

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