Southeastern breaks even on Dell deal*

September 10, 2013, 12:20 AM UTC

FORTUNE — Back in June, mutual fund Southeastern Asset Management sold over half of its 8% stake in Dell Inc. (DELL) to Carl Icahn, who had joined SAM in opposing Michael Dell’s efforts to take Dell private. SAM sold the shares at a discount to the $13.65 per share buyout offer, believing that Icahn would be in a stronger negotiating position with an extra 72 million shares in hand. Short-term risk for long-term gain.

Since then, Icahn was indeed able to force Michael Dell’s hand — getting the buyout offer raised to $13.75 per share, plus a 13 cent per share special dividend. But Icahn has admittedly lost the larger battle to control Dell, whose shareholders will formally vote on the revised offer this Thursday.

So how did SAM make out in all of this?

Had SAM held onto all of the Dell shares it held going into Q2, it would have netted approximately $2 billion from the original buyout plan.

But then it sold around 72 million shares to Icahn, for a total of $969 million. And it currently has $964 million in value based on the current buyout price. Then SAM also sold some additional shares as part of its normal course of business, which we’ll generously mark at the original buyout price — thus generating another $64 million. The result: Almost a perfect match to what SAM’s stake was worth in the first place.

In other words, SAM didn’t really win or lose by selling its shares to Icahn. Well, with two caveats:

  1. 1. Icahn possibly could have forced the same price concessions without SAM’s shares, at which point SAM would have generated an extra $26 million (not including those additional share sales). That profit now goes into Icahn’s pocket.
  2. 2. Either way, Dell is an overall loser for SAM — which paid approximately $2.43 billion for its original position.

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