Michael Dell

Like many other Jewish boys, Michael Dell was supposed to grow up to become a doctor, just like his father. But from early on he had other plans. At the age of 12 Dell already showed his knack for business, making a small fortune from trading stamps and selling newspaper subscriptions.

So it was no surprise that the boy from Houston became one of America’s wealthiest computer entrepreneurs. In October, Dell stunned the tech community with the largest merger in the industry’s history, which will create the largest single vendor of personal computers, servers and storage in the world.

Under the $67 billion deal, which still requires regulatory approval, Dell, a computer maker carrying the name of its founder, will purchase data storage giant EMC. Analysts and insiders were taken by surprise by the huge deal, which they view as risky and complicated. But Michael Dell, 50, dismissed such concerns, saying he is “just on a really big adventure.”

In 2013 Dell bought back the company he founded, which was publicly traded, and has since succeeded in growing it despite a declining market for personal computers. While doing so he brought his personal wealth up to $19 billion. Critics note Dell’s aggressive use of tax shelters and overseas outsourcing to keep his company profitable.

A mainstream Republican, Dell contributes generously to the GOP, but most of the family’s philanthropic giving is directed at children’s issues. Dell is a major funder of the Jewish federation in his hometown of Austin, Texas, and of Friends of Israel Defense Forces.

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