Michael Dell, the American business magnate and the founder of the world’s largest PC maker Dell Inc., is one of the richest people on the planet. His wealth has skyrocketed in the last couple of years thanks to Dell’s recent string of smart investments and acquisitions. As of 2024, Michael Dell’s net worth is over $80 billion.
His biggest venture, Dell, has come a long way since the young student started selling computers from his dorm room back in 1984. He is now the sole owner of MSD Capital, among other ventures, and has millions invested in various assets and investments. Let’s see what made Michael Dell one of the richest people in the world.
Michael Dell’s Net Worth Breakdown:
Dell’s CEO has such a massive and expansive net worth that it is impossible to track down every source of his wealth. However, we were able to find plenty of information on his largest investments, assets, and companies to build a careful estimate of his net worth. Here’s how to breaks down.
|Asset or Income Source
|Contribution to Net Worth
|Approx. 50% of company shares
|MSD Partners stake
|65% ownership, invested $12 billion
|VMware sale to Broadcom
|Dell shares gifted to charity
|SEC charges in 2010
|Total Net Worth
Michael Dell Net Worth: Early Life of a Computer Tycoon
Michael Saul Dell was born on February 23, 1965, in Houston to his mother Lorraine Charlotte, a stockbroker, and his father Alexander Dell, an orthodontist. Young Michael Dell was very eager to join the business world. When he was only eight years old, he applied to take a high school equivalency exam. He attended Herod Elementary School in Houston.
As a teenager, Michael Dell started investing in precious metals and stocks using the money he earned working part-time jobs. He bought his first calculator (which were extremely expensive at the time) when he was only seven years old and bought his first computer at the age of 15. His part-time jobs included selling subscriptions to the Houston Post and washing dishes, and he did all this while attending Memorial High School in Houston.
Dell’s first computer was an Apple II, which he quickly disassembled in an attempt to learn how it worked. Even though his passion was computers, his family pushed him to study to become a doctor, so he followed their guidance and entered pre-med at the University of Texas in 1983.
While at the University of Texas, Dell was still working on selling newspaper subscriptions. He found out that the best-targeted audience for his job was people moving to new homes or newlyweds. So, he used public records to find this information and sent direct mail appeals to his newly targeted audience. This business acumen helped him earn $18,000 in a single year, which he used to create his personal computing empire at the young age of 19.
When his business gained a gross profit of $200,000 in the first year, Dell decided to drop out of college and fully focus on his business career.
Dell would later tell CNBC on Jon Fortt’s podcast:
I started the company with $1,000 a week before I was taking my final exams as a freshman. I was in this mode of buying computers and souping them up with more capability and then re-selling them
Michael Dell Net Worth: From a Dorm Room to Billionaire’s Row
Not many people can say that they built an empire right out of school, and even fewer can say that they did this out of their dorm room. Michael Dell is one of the few, and his story is nothing but inspiring. Here is how he accumulated such a fortune.
The Founding of Dell Computer Corporation
Using some of the money he earned selling subscriptions, Michael Dell started a computer business from his college dorm room. He began by selling upgrade kits for personal computers in the Dobie Center residential building’s room 2713.
I start exploring this whole computer thing further, and one of the things I noticed about the computer business was that it was very inefficient. It took a really long time for the technology to get from the people that made it to the people that were buying it, and it was actually rather expensive and slow.
Dell explained on the How I Built This Podcast in 2018.
From his dorm, Dell was speeding up his processes and earning between $50,000 and $80,000 a month. He applied for a vendor license that would allow him to bid on contracts in Texas, and he started winning them because he could offer better rates as he wasn’t bogged down by the overhead of an actual computer store.
At the beginning of 1984, Dell got the idea to sell PCs directly instead of using indirect retail channels. He then registered his company as PC’S Limited and started manufacturing computers as ordered. He used the so-called “build-to-order model”, which allowed him to avoid overproduction and keep inventory levels low, something that was necessary seeing how he worked out of such a small space.
While he worked on his PC’s Limited company out of a condominium, he was earning a fortune on PC kits, upgrades, and add-on components. In May, he incorporated his business as Dell Computer Corporation, left school, and relocated to a business center located in North Austin, where he employed a few people to take and fill out orders. The capitalization cost for his business was a mere $1,000.
Soon enough, his business idea caught the attention of Mark Cuban, the richest Shark on the hit investing show Shark Tank, who was then building his own computer business called MicroSolutions.
“I remember driving down to pick up some hard drives that I was going to put into my customers’ PCs,” – Cuban shared on his blog.
“They had just moved from the owner’s dorm room into a little office/warehouse space,” he continues. “I was so impressed by this young kid [Dell] (I was a wise old 25 at the time), that I actually wrote a letter thanking him for the great job he was doing, and … I’m embarrassed to say now, I told him that if he kept up what he was doing, he was destined for far bigger and better things.”
He wasn’t wrong, and in 1988, Dell Computer went public just four years after it was founded, making him the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company in 1992.
Dell Inc. and Dell Technologies
By 1992, the young entrepreneur, then aged 27, became the youngest CEO of a company in Forbes’ list of top 500 corporations. His company, Dell Computer Corporation, was reporting million-dollar sales days at this time.
After the IPO in 1988, the corporation’s market capitalization was $80 million, when stakeholders could buy shares at $8.50 apiece.
Four years later, Dell started selling products online and launched its first servers. In the first quarter of 2001, Dell reached a world market share of 12.8%, which made it more powerful than Compaq and some of the largest PC makers in the world. Dell’s combined shipments of products like computers and servers grew by 34.3% on a worldwide level.
During his time at the company, Dell changed his position often, most frequently holding the role of CEO or chairman – or both. In 2004, he stepped down as the CEO but remained the chairman of the board while Kevin Rollins replaced him in his role as chief executive officer. Fast forward to 2007 and Dell returned as the CEO of Dell Technologies.
In 2002, the company started selling televisions, digital audio players, handheld devices, and printers. The chairman and CEO Michael Dell repeatedly blocked Kevin Rollin, the President and COO at the time, in his attempts to lessen the company’s dependency on computers.
A year later, the stockholders of the company approved the change of the name to Dell Inc.
Taking Dell Private
In 2013, Michael Dell partnered with Silver Lake Partners, Microsoft, and other lenders and took his company private. This deal reportedly cost $25 billion and prompted some resistance from major names in the industry, such as Carl Icahn. However, a few months later, the issue was resolved, after which Dell Technologies went public – again – and Michael Dell got a 75% stake in the company.
“It’s great to be here and to not have to introduce Carl Icahn to you,” said Dell during the celebratory party. “We’re the largest company in terms of revenue to go from public to private. In another week or two, we’ll be the world’s largest startup.”
The biggest acquisition of Dell Inc. to date was in October 2015, when they bought EMC Corporation for $67 billion. The transaction closed on September 7, 2016, and shareholders at EMC Corp. received $24.05 per share.
A year later, Dell Inc. completed the merger with EMC, and in 2018, the company announced its intention to become a publicly traded company once again, by paying $21.7 billion in cash and stock to buy back its shares from VMware. This came with quite the backlash with major shareholder Carl Icahn and other investors suing Dell over their plans to go public. Icahn was a 9.3% owner of Dell.
Due to this pressure, Dell renegotiated the deal and offered shareholders 80% of market value, once again making Dell a public company, now operating under a newly created parent called Dell Technologies.
By the end of the year, on December 28th to be precise, Dell Technologies once again became a public company.
Dell Technologies Inc. is headquartered in Round Rock, Texas and was ranked 35th on the Fortune 500 rankings of the largest US corporations by total revenue. The company operates under two divisions:
- Dell Client Solutions Group which produces desktop PCs, tablets, notebooks, and peripherals like printers and monitors
- Dell EMC Infrastructure Solutions Group, which produces servers and storage
Broadcom’s Acquisition of VMware
In October 2023, Beijing authorities were considering holding up an agreed $69 billion acquisition of VMware by Broadcom. Following the announcement, VMware’s stock went down 15%, so Michael Dell’s net worth fell by $5.4 billion in a single week.
However, the acquisition eventually resulted in a $20+ billion payday for the Dell CEO and founder. The contract indicates that Dell Technologies will no longer be a distributor of VMware products.
Dell’s stake in VMware was nearly 40%.
In July 2010, Dell Inc. paid a $100 million penalty due to SEC charges of accounting and disclosure fraud. Michael Dell and Kevin Rollins paid $4 million each out of their personal net worth.
Affiliations and Awards
Dell currently serves on the executive committee of the International Business Council, i.e. Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum.
Before this, he was a member of the US President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, a role he no longer holds today.
In 2020, Dell was named by Texas Governor Greg Abbott to the Strike Force to Open Texas. He is also an advisor on the COVID-19 Technology Task Force, which was formed in March 2020 to find solutions to respond to the pandemic.
In 1999, Dell won the American Academy of Achievement and in 2003, he won the Bower Award for Business Leadership.
Michael Dell has published two books so far:
- Direct from Dell: Strategies That Revolutionized an Industry in 1999 (written in collaboration with Catherine Fredman)
- Play Nice but Win: A CEO’s Journey from Founder to Leader in 2021 (written in collaboration with James Kaplan)
Back in 1999, Dell and his wife Susan established a foundation that focuses on grants, urban education, family economic stability, and childhood health. The foundation was named the Michael Susan Dell Foundation.
Dell was also the founder of the Dell Jewish Community Campus based in Northwest Hills, Austin.
Last year, Michael Dell gave around $350 million worth of his stock, the first donation of Dell shares since 2006 and the biggest portion given to charity ever. He gifted 5.15 million shares in October 2023, 2 million of which went to the Michael Susan Dell Foundation. The rest went to various charitable funds that the couple chose.
Here are some of his other more notable donations so far:
- 1999: $250,000 donated to the Republican National Committee
- 2003: $250,000 donated to the second inauguration of President George W. Bush
- 2004: $25 million donated to a new children’s hospital later renamed the Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas
- 2012: $1 million donated to the Michael Susan Dell Foundation
- 2013: $50 million donation to establish the Dell Medical School at his alma mater
- 2017: $36 million donated to aid disaster relief efforts after Hurricane Harvey
- 2020: $100 million donation for small businesses and COVID-19 relief initiatives
- 2022: $15 million donated in grants to Ukrainian groups following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, helping Dell and his wife appear on Forbes’ list of top 25 philanthropists in the US
Investments and Assets of Michael Dell
Seeing how he is one of the richest people worldwide, it should come as no surprise that Dell isn’t the only business Michael Dell has established or invested in over the years. He also has plenty of money invested in assets, including real estate, stocks, bonds, and more.
In 1998 when Dell was reporting millions in sales per day, the businessman founded MSD Capital L.P., a firms that managed his family’s investments. The company’s investment activities include private equity investments, real estate purchases, and publicly traded securities.
The company is based in New York, London, and Santa Monica and employs over 80 people today. MSD Capital owns plenty of properties including:
- Four Seasons Resort Maui, Wailea
- Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
- The Boca Raton
- Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows in Santa Monica
In addition to this, the company holds over 13,000 multi-family units and an unknown number of developments in Austin, Texas. It is one of the largest family offices worldwide, managing over $31 billion in assets.
The most significant equity stakes of MSD Capital today are Dine Brands Global and PVH Corp. MSD Capital owns over 256,000 shares in PVH Corp. This apparel company owns big brands like Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger. It owns over 3.92 million shares of Dine Brands Global, a food company that owns Applebee’s Neighborhood Bar and Grill, among others.
Michael Dell reportedly has a 65% stake in this business and the company manages $12 billion from his personal net worth.
Dell has a massive real estate portfolio on top of his huge family office. While most of the properties are for investments and done through MSD Capital, he also has some properties for personal use.
For instance, back in 2014, Dell bought a penthouse in Manhattan’s Billionaire’s Row worth over $100 million. This was the most expensive home in New York at the time. He probably still owns the six-bedroom property that occupies the entire 89th and 90th floors of the One57 building.
Seven years later, he spent $34 million for a Boston penthouse, a suite located in the Four Seasons Private Residences building, right on Dalton Street. He listed the property for sale in 2023 for $35 million, be we don’t know if he sold it yet.
Dell reportedly owns another penthouse in Boston, which he purchased for $11 million in 2016. The property is located in Millennium Tower.
In 2018, Dell sold a Los Cabos, Mexico, property for $18.5 million.
In 2004 when MSD Capital bought the Four Seasons Maui, Dell bought a stunning residence for an undisclosed sum on Hawaii’s Kohala coast.
Out of all these properties, the biggest so far is his Austin home, intended for Dell’s family. The home comes with an indoor lap pool and 8 bedrooms and the family expanded the original lot by buying adjacent lots, all of which now make about 120 acres. The home was given a value of $22.5 million during a legal dispute in 1997, but Dell claimed that he spent $30 million just to renovate it.
Only 12 miles from the property, Dell owns 6D Ranch, a lot dedicated to Arabian horses.
Michael Saul Dell owns at least one private jet, his luxurious Boeing 787 worth over $290 million. He also owns luxurious vehicles including:
- Porsche Carrera GT worth over $400,000
- First Gen Porsche Boxster S worth around $56,000
- Hummer H2 worth $84,000
What Can We Learn from Michael Dell’s Story?
Michael Dell has a compelling entrepreneurial story that we can all learn a lot from. To begin with, he founded his company at the age of 19 in his dorm room, showing us that there are basically no limits to success when you have the talent, courage, and desire to make it happen.
Dell had an exquisite entrepreneurial vision, that allowed him to spot the perfect business opportunity by scoping out the inefficiencies of the computer business. This enabled his breakthrough direct-to-consumer model instead of the popular retail model. This meant that he could offer competitive prices and build stronger customer relationships.
It was precisely this focus on customer satisfaction that set the company apart and became the hallmark of Dell’s success.
That’s not the only story to learn, though. Over the years, Dell has adapted to changes in the technology industry, and his leadership was marked by a willingness to reinvent the company and navigate major shifts in the market, such as a move into enterprise solutions and IT services.
The American billionaire businessman had a unique approach to acquisitions, one that helped secure his position on the market. His leadership has been all about synergy and integration, showcasing how important it is to plan strategically in mergers and acquisitions.
Finally, Dell is strongly involved in philanthropy through the family foundation he manages with his wife. His commitment to social responsibility, family economic stability, and generally giving back to the community is massive and constitutes an important lesson on the impact businesses can have on society.