The Comeback Kids

Another billionaire is back. Michael Dell has now been awarded the rank of "comeback kid" with Charles Schwab and Steve Jobs. All three men were called in by the companies they created to save the day.

Dell's return to one of the world's largest computer manufacturers is effective immediately and comes after nearly a four-year hiatus. Investors didn't take long to cheer the resignation of Dell's former CEO Kevin Rollins. They sent shares up 39 cents in mid-day trading.

Yale Professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld says it's not unusual for these men to want to come in and help their companies. "This is their baby that they have guided through many life stages. They feel a great sense of personal pride."

But Sonnenfeld, author of "Firing Back: How Great Leaders Rebound After Career Disasters," says having to come back is often a humbling moment. "It is a statement you failed, it is not a moment of triumph."

Making more money is not the only issue -- saving the company that is tied to their name is what is at stake.

Dell, 41, created a computer company in his college dorm room 15 years ago.

Dell was a $53 billion company whose stock dropped from more than $40 a share two years ago to about $25. Just last year, Dell lost its No. 1 position in the industry to rival Hewlett-Packard.

Dell says he will focus on building momentum with Dell 2.0. He still believes the company has tremendous potential, and efforts will be "geared toward providing the best customer experience."

Doubling Schwab Shares

Founders have been successful turning things around before. Shares of Charles Schwab more than doubled since Schwab returned in July 2004; and Apple Inc.'s stock surged 15-fold since co-founder Steve Jobs returned as CEO in 1997.

Schwab, 69, came out of retirement in 2004 when his discount brokerage business lost its No. 1 position.

Schwab is the world's second-largest discount broker, second to Fidelity Investments. It is a $24 billion company and in the past four years, the share price has doubled from under 10 dollars to nearly 20 dollars.

Charles Schwab says its fourth-quarter profit more than tripled in lending revenue. For the full year, Schwab earned $725 million, the most since it was created three decades ago. According to Schwab's chief financial officer Christopher Dodds, "Schwab is in excellent shape."

Jobs As Ultimate Comeback

Jobs, who was fired from Apple in 1985, is perhaps the ultimate comeback kid. Eleven years after Jobs got the pink slip, Apple purchased Jobs' start-up company for $400 million, and he has since been the driving force behind Pixar, iPod, iTunes and iMac.

Analysts say Apple Inc.'s most valuable asset is its CEO, Jobs. They also say if Jobs left, shares of the California-based company might drop 25 percent or more. That would erase about $20 billion in Apple's market value.

Sometimes it takes a general to come out of retirement to win the war. Sonnenfeld says, "World War II was the triumph of generals who were all fully retired; Montgomery, MacArthur and Patton were all retired and we were lucky to have them."

But coming back to do battle can also be a disaster.

Sonnenfeld says Enron founder Ken Lay "is a perfect example that many times, it is a bad thing to bring these guys back. Ken Lay didn't know what to do and he was brought back because of the leadership vacuum."

Lay was an example of someone who was brought back to get through a moment of crisis.

The Dell board of directors asked Dell to come back because of his vision. Wall Street has been calling for Dell's return for more than a year. Analysts say Dell has done a brilliant job at building the company in the past, and since he knows the company better than anyone, he is in the best position to return value to stockholders.

Sonnenfeld says, "Dell is no glory hound, he just wants to know that the institution he built is stable."

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