Confirmed: Dell sells software division to Francisco Partners and Elliott Management

TechCrunch has confirmed that Francisco Partners and Elliott Management have agreed to acquire Dell’s software division.

Elliott Management, Francisco Partners and Dell issued a joint press release confirming the acquisition this morning.

Rumors about this acquisition were first reported by Reuters over night. The deal involves Quest Software and SonicWALL and could include other pieces. The price tag was over $2 billion, according to the Reuters report.

The parties would not confirm the price, but the buyers clearly see an opportunity here.

“Quest Software and SonicWALL provide mission-critical software to a large and loyal base of over 180,000 customers, and we see significant opportunity to build upon the company’s impressive technology and product portfolio,”  Francisco CEO Dipanjan “DJ” Deb said in a statement.

Quest provides IT services. Dell paid $2.4 billion to acquire the company in 2012. Dell bought SonicWALL, a security company at about the same time, and while the price wasn’t officially released at the time, The Wall Street Journal reported the deal was for $1.2 billion.

That means after paying $3.6 billion for the two properties 4 years ago, the company was only able to recoup over $2 billion (assuming the reported price tag for today’s acquisition is correct).

The deal comes as Dell is trying to dump some pieces in order to help pay for its $67 billion EMC acquisition, which is set to go through later this year. It sold its IT Services Unit to NTT Data in March for $3 billion.

A few billion here and a few billion there and pretty soon you’re talking real money.

It also comes against the backdrop of increasing activity by private equity firms. Earlier this month, Vista Equity Partners bought Marketo for $1.8 billion in cash, then scooped up Ping Identity for $600 million.  What’s more, private equity firm Thoma Bravo bought Qlik for $3 billion and Providence Strategic Growth invested $130 million in Logic Monitor last week.

Meanwhile, Elliott Management, which has made its name as an activist investor and counts itself as a hedge fund is not a typical buyer either. In fact, Elliott reportedly put pressure on EMC which might have led to the Dell deal in the first place.

Elliott sees the deal in the context of its evolving investment strategy. The company recently formed Evergreen Coast Capital, and the new affiliate actually made the deal.

“Elliott has been a long-term investor in the technology space and today’s
announcement continues our progress,” Jesse Cohn, senior portfolio
manager at Elliott Management said in a statement.