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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios 

Dell Technologies is working with Wall Street on some sort of major financial transaction, although specifics remain elusive.

Bottom line: The company is under pressure from the new tax plan, which means Michael Dell may need to rethink his aversion to being a public company CEO.

The latest

CNBC reported yesterday that one option is a reverse merger with VMWare, in which Dell holds an 80% stake via its $64 billion purchase of EMC. This comes after a Bloomberg story that Dell could IPO itself or buy out the remaining VMWare stake.

Why now?

Debt. Around $51 billion of it to be exact. And, as we discussed yesterday in Pro Rata, the recent tax bill is particularly tough on highly-leveraged companies (despite lower corporate rates). Had Congress included a grandfather clause, then banks like J.P. Morgan might not have recently reconstructed their Dell teams.

A big hurdle

Michael Dell originally took his company private, in part, because he absolutely hated being a public company CEO. And he maintained that posture years later:

Conventional wisdom was that when buyout sponsor Silver Lake wanted an exit, Michael himself would do the honors. But that became a much dicier proposition after the EMC deal and, again, those subsequent changes to interest deductibility.

Other options

Because it's still hard to see Michael Dell voluntarily rejoining the land of "circus clowns," we've got to entertain some alternative possibilities:

  • Michael Dell transitions into a non-CEO role, perhaps to be succeeded by VMWare's Pat Gelsinger;
  • New asset sales/public floats to pay down debt; or
  • Some sort of private transaction, perhaps with the help of a deep pocket like SoftBank (which has really become the Occam's Razor of tech financing).

Go deeper

Updated 22 mins ago - Economy & Business

Hybrid work now dominates the knowledge economy

llustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

For the first time since the start of the pandemic, most knowledge workers are in hybrid work arrangements, partly remote and partly in-office, a new survey finds.

By the numbers: 58% said they now work this way, in a survey of around 10,000 knowledge workers from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Japan, conducted last November by Future Forum, a research group backed by Slack.

Rents hit all-time high

Data: Zumper; Chart: Axios Visuals

The national median price of a one-bedroom rental apartment in January was up 12% year-over-year, to $1,374 — an all-time high, per Zumper, an online apartment rental site.

Why it matters: Inflation is taking a bigger bite out of people's paychecks these days not only in food and gasoline, but also in housing costs.

A pandemic victim: Ethical supply chains

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Over the last decade, global companies have put in place elaborate policies to ensure their suppliers protect worker safety and human rights. They're struggling to comply with those policies in the pandemic.

Driving the news: COVID-era disruptions have caused a spike in noncompliance with health and safety rules, according to new data from Qima, which audits supply chains.