In 2014, Paul Jacobs, then-CEO of wireless chip giant Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), handed over the reins to Steve Mollenkopf. Jacobs' involvement with Qualcomm didn't end there, though -- he remained the chairman of the board.
Earlier this year, in the midst of the drama surrounding Broadcom's (NASDAQ:AVGO) attempted takeover of Qualcomm, Jacobs relinquished his role as chairman but stayed on as a director. Then, shortly after rumors began to surface that he was trying to take Qualcomm private, Jacobs was kicked off the board of directors.
According to a report on CNBC, citing people familiar with the company, Jacobs' efforts to take Qualcomm private continue. He's apparently "talking to strategic investors and sovereign wealth funds to chip in for a fully financed bid to take Qualcomm private in the next two months." If that bid were to succeed, Jacobs would supposedly run the privately held Qualcomm.
Let's go over what this means for current Qualcomm investors.
A lot of money required
You may remember that Broadcom was willing to pay $82 per share to acquire Qualcomm (though it reduced that offer to $79 after Qualcomm raised its own bid for NXP Semiconductors), but the latter loudly insisted that this offer materially undervalued the business.
If Jacobs and whatever coalition of financial backers he finds want to launch a bid that has a real chance of success, they'll have to come up with enough financing to support an offer substantially in excess of $82 per share. Otherwise, Jacobs, who wasn't interested in Broadcom's offer of $82 per share, could come off looking a bit awkward -- that'll be tough.
Another issue is that while Broadcom has a proven track record with large acquisitions, something that likely made it easy to find backers in its quest to acquire Qualcomm, this acquisition of Qualcomm would put the company back under the control of the individual who led the board of directors through a significant destruction of shareholder wealth over the last few years (Qualcomm stock closed at $73.63 per share on the day Jacobs handed the controls over to Mollenkopf and most recently closed at $55.73).
Potential backers might want to think twice about betting heavily on a Jacobs-led Qualcomm.
Probably not the best long-term strategy
It's likely that Broadcom's long-term strategy was going to involve laser-focusing Qualcomm on what it's best at (e.g., mobile processors and related smartphone technologies) and shuttering efforts with low odds of success (e.g., server processors, Windows PCs). Broadcom is also believed to have been interested in throwing Qualcomm's wireless technology licensing business, which can be very lucrative but is increasingly under pressure.
Broadcom would've taken real, radical steps to try to increase shareholder value.
Jacobs seems interested only in continuing what Qualcomm has been doing that have led its stock price to dramatically underperform its peers in the semiconductor industry. Taking the company private and out of the public eye could be a way for Jacobs to allow Qualcomm to do just that (which is, I suspect, his main motivation).
We'll see how this all plays out, but I think there's plenty of reason to doubt that Jacobs will be able to pull off this attempted privatization of Qualcomm.