April 1, 2011 7:09 pm

Plain-speaking operators forge alliance

Around the exchange sector, there will be little surprise that a bid to break up the NYSE Euronext-Deutsche Borse merger is being launched by Robert “Bob” Greifeld of Nasdaq OMX, and Jeffrey Sprecher of IntercontinentalExchange.

The two plain-spoken men share reputations as aggressive consolidators. Both have previously made hostile, though failed, bids for rivals, Mr Greifeld for the London Stock Exchange, and Mr Sprecher for the Chicago Board of Trade.

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On Friday, they said they had learnt from past efforts and that their joint $13.3bn bid to split NYSE Euronext was driven in part by their personal partnership.

“I think we both became more and more convinced we had the right partners,” Mr Greifeld said.

Mr Greifeld, chief executive of Nasdaq since 2003, was an outsider to the clubby world of New York exchanges, having formerly been an executive at a west coast technology company. Leaning on his experience, Mr Greifeld acquired Instinet, the electronic marketplace, in 2005, and the OMX Group of Nordic exchanges in 2007. The failed bid for the LSE in 2006 raised questions about Mr Greifeld’s leadership, as Nasdaq and LSE had previously discussed a mutual partnership. Nasdaq has also lost key executives under him. But he has continued to charge ahead, launching new equity marketplaces in the US and buying the PHLX options market.

Like Mr Greifeld, Mr Sprecher began his career elsewhere, in the power industry in the 1980s. He developed important ties with Wall Street, which enabled him to found ICE in 2000, take the company public in 2005 and entering the credit default-swap clearing business by establishing ICE Trust in 2009 in consortium with the big dealer banks. In just over a decade, ICE has become a critical financial institution and demonstrated Mr Sprecher’s skill as a dealmaker, with moves for the International Petroleum Exchange in London in 2001 and the New York Board of Trade in 2007.

While his bid to break up the Chicago Mercantile Group’s merger with CBOT in 2007 was unsuccessful, Mr Sprecher said he came away with a higher profile and forced his main competitor to increase its offer price.

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