Dell Computer: Michael Dell

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Last January, amid a tanking economy and tech recession, Dell Computer Corp. embarked on a price war that would help it seize the No. 1 market share position in PCs.

The strategic prowess of 36-year-old Chairman-CEO Michael Dell-grab share in a sinking economy while rivals die on the vine-is not unique. But his timing and ability to react quickly to volatile conditions have helped Dell come out on top. The company ranked No. 1 in the U.S. in PC unit shipments for the second quarter with a 24% share, up from 20.1% a year earlier.

Mr. Dell has said he wants to boost his 13% share in global PCs to 40%, and despite the worsening economy industry analysts believe he might be able to pull it off through industry consolidation and the exit of weaker players from the market. Omnicom Group's DDB Worldwide, Chicago, is backing Dell's mission with an aggressive consumer campaign in the fourth quarter.

Scrappy Dell was built on a direct sales model that rivals including Compaq Computer Corp. have tried to copy. For Dell's fiscal second quarter, Merrill Lynch & Co. reported the PC marketer grew unit sales 19% year-over-year even as the industry experienced a 3% global unit decline.

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