Dell Inc. and EMC are in talks for what could be the largest tech merger of all time, according to a report this evening in The Wall Street Journal. The story suggests that Dell could purchase EMC Corp. (EMC) and then spin out its large data storage unit, although the first part of that would be a bit tricky given that Dell was taken private in late 2013 for just half of where EMC is currently valued ($25b vs. $50b).
But let’s assume, just for now, that the financial pieces can be appropriately maneuvered. In that case, how did we not see this coming?
Back in July, Dell director Egon Durban appeared at Fortune Brainstorm Tech in Aspen. He talked a lot about EMC’s “federation” business mode, and how Dell was thinking about adopting a similar strategy.
“I think what [EMC CEO Joe] Tucci has done with VMWare is a good example of that, where you can take something that people don’t fully understand, buried in the portfolio, and unlock it while still having a partnership with the mothership,” said Durban, whose day job is as managing partner of private equity firm Silver Lake.
Durban even added that while the company wasn’t “committed at this stage” to any particular transactions, possible candidates for being spun out included cybersecurity business SecureWorks and cloud integration software platform Boomi.
What Durban was really saying, of course, was that Dell had been spending a lot of time analyzing EMC’s business model and its underlying businesses. Sometimes, familiarity breeds combinations. Particularly when there are so many complementary business units involved.
Again, nobody in June thought to ask Durban about any sort of grand merger — likely because of that whopping 2x size differential. But if something between Dell and EMC comes to fruition, we know the first public breadcrumb was dropped months ago.
We reached out to both Durban and Michael Dell after the WSJ report broke, but have not yet received any comment.
Below is the full Fortune Brainstorm Tech interview with Durban:
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