Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Exclusive: Dell in Talks to Hire Former HP Networking Chief Marius Haas

As Dell prepares to report its quarterly earnings at the close of markets today, the company may be close to making what could turn out to be an important hire for its enterprise business.

Sources familiar with the matter tell AllThingsD that Dell is talking to Marius Haas, the former head of Hewlett-Packard’s networking business (and currently an industry adviser at investment firm KKR), about a job running its servers, storage and networking business. Haas declined to comment on the matter when reached by phone this morning. It’s unclear how far talks between Haas and Dell have progressed, or what his precise title would be. (See an update on this at the bottom of the post.)

It’s also unclear what Haas’s hiring might mean for Brad Anderson, Dell’s current president of Enterprise Solutions. Anderson is himself an HP veteran who ran its industry standard server business until 2005. A Dell spokesman declined to comment.

Haas (pictured from his LinkedIn profile, at right) was considered a key lieutenant to former CEO Mark Hurd. During a five-year stint as senior VP for strategy and corporate development, Haas oversaw some of HP’s biggest acquisitions, including the $14 billion takeover of the IT services firm EDS in 2008.

Later that year, he was named SVP and worldwide general manager of HP’s networking unit; during his three years in that role, HP spent $2.7 billion to acquire the networking concern 3Com. While running that business, Haas was behind an audacious promotional effort to attract customers away from industry giant Cisco Systems by offering its customers a 20 percent discount on HP gear if they would trade in old Cisco equipment. “People are tired of paying for Cisco,” he declared to AllThingsD in a 2010 interview. He left HP last year to join KKR, two months before things at HP got weird under former CEO Léo Apotheker.

The move would also open up doors for more current and former HP employees to join Haas at Dell. HP is in the process of cutting 27,000 jobs, about a third of which are expected to go this year, with many employees taking voluntary buyouts.

Haas would be the second big hire at Dell this year. In February, the company hired John Swainson, the former CEO of CA, to run its new software unit, and he promptly announced some ambitious goals.

It may also signal a little of what Dell has in mind regarding acquisitions. After hiring Swainson, Dell got into a bidding war with a group of private equity investors over Quest Software, a bidding war it ultimately won. Dell has been on a steady acquisition pace for the last two years or so, buying storage company Compellent in 2010, security outfits SecureWorks in 2011 and SonicWall this year, and Wyse Technology, a virtual desktop player, in April.

CEO Michael Dell hinted in an interview with AllThingsD last month that he’s still in the hunt for more acquisitions. The company has some $13 billion in combined cash and short-term investments. Haas’s experience as a dealmaker is probably the reason he’s on Dell’s radar in the first place.

Update at 12:11 pm PT: I’ve just heard a little more from sources on this. They tell me that Dell will announce this move tomorrow, and that Haas’ title will be senior vice president. They also tell me that Haas will replace Brad Anderson, who will be leaving the company.

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— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google