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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 18 mins ago - Health

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

2 hours ago - Technology

Facebook bans Myanmar military

A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.

It's harder to fill the Cabinet

Data: Chamberlain, 2020, "United States of America Cabinet Appointments Dataset" Chart: Will Chase/Axios

It's harder now for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their Cabinet picks, an Axios data analysis of votes for and against nominees found.

Why it matters: It's not just Neera Tanden. The trend is a product of growing polarization, rougher political discourse and slimming Senate majorities, experts say. It means some of the nation's most vital federal agencies go without a leader and the legislative authority that comes with one.