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Exclusive: Icahn, Southeastern prepare Dell CEO shortlist - sources

Investor Carl Icahn speaks at the Wall Street Journal Deals & Deal Makers conference, held at the New York Stock Exchange, June 27, 2007. RE
Investor Carl Icahn speaks at the Wall Street Journal Deals & Deal Makers conference, held at the New York Stock Exchange, June 27, 2007. RE

By Nadia Damouni

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Carl Icahn and Southeastern Asset Management Inc are short-listing potential candidates to become the next Dell Inc chief executive should they succeed in a proxy battle against Michael Dell and Silver Lake Partners, two sources close to the matter told Reuters.

A number of high-profile industry executives have been identified as possible successors to the Dell founder, including: Cisco Systems Inc director Michael Capellas, former IBM Corp services head Michael Daniels, Oracle Corp President Mark Hurd and Hewlett-Packard Co PC boss Todd Bradley, the sources said.

Icahn and Southeastern Asset Management have already approached several candidates, the sources said on condition of anonymity because the discussions were private. Capellas, Daniels and Hurd were not immediately available for comment. Bradley said in an email he had not been contacted.

A representative for Southeastern declined to comment. Icahn did not return calls for comment.

Icahn, Southeastern and company founder Michael Dell are locked in a battle over the future of the world's No. 3 PC maker, a struggle precipitated by the swift decline of the global computer industry and the company's failure to arrest sliding revenues.

Its billionaire founder and Dell executives have argued the company has little future in PCs and needs to transform itself into an IBM-like provider of full-spectrum enterprise services - a makeover best done as a private company. But major shareholders decry Dell's offer as cheapening their stakes.

FAMILIAR LIST

Michael Dell and Silver Lake have proposed a $24.4 billion buyout of the personal computer maker. Meanwhile, Icahn and Southeastern Asset Management made a counter offer that would pay a $12-per-share special dividend and allow Dell shareholders to keep their shares.

Dell has set a special meeting of July 18 for shareholders to vote on the $13.65-per-share Dell-Silver Lake buyout.

Icahn and Southeastern have also put together a prospective board to replace all 12 of the current directors, though some analysts question the credentials of the proposed names, saying several lacked extensive turnaround or technology experience.

Some of Dell's top investors have expressed support for Icahn over the past few months, including money manager T. Rowe Price Associates Inc and Yacktman Asset Management LP.

This week, Dell's special buyout committee said Icahn is almost $4 billion short of the cash needed to fund his proposal for his proposed special dividend.

"We are going to vote against the Silver Lake deal," said Don Yacktman, president of Yacktman Asset Management, whose fund owns 14.9 million shares of Dell.

"Southeastern and Icahn make a strong case to go the other way."

(Additional reporting by Poornima Gupta in San Francisco; Editing by Edwin Chan and Ben Berkowitz)

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