By Carol J. Loomis, senior editor-at-large
FORTUNE -- Larry Leibowitz said in late November that he'd be leaving the job of chief operating officer of the New York Stock Exchange, and the news got headlines in the New York Post. And just why? Because Leibowitz is the brother of The Daily Show's Jon Stewart and therefore experienced celebrity ruboff.
But there's actually a riveting story underlying the departure of Leibowitz and other Big Board executives, one that concerns the NYSE itself. It's in the leadoff stages of a disruptive merger, which rates particular interest because it pairs an upstart and an old-line company. The acquirer is ICE, out of Atlanta and headed by Jeffrey Sprecher, and the acquiree is the exchange's parent, NYSE Euronext. They're in the latest Fortune, in an article called The ICE Man Cometh.
Having made his improbable deal, Sprecher, 58, naturally has people he wants to install at the top—and he did, in fact, bring a COO, Chuck Vice, with him. Sprecher also has thoughts of making the venerable Big Board into the kind of lean machine ICE has always been.
ICE has just over 1,000 employees; NYSE has been pushing 4,000, including contract employees. "The question is," says Sprecher, "can a 1,000-employee company impart its culture to a 4,000-employee company?"
Asked about his own hours on the job, Sprecher says he gets to work at 8:00 a.m. and stays until 8:00 p.m. "I don't know how to manage," he adds. "I just try to set an example."
Right there with him in his 12-hour days, by the way, is his wife, Kelly Loeffler, 43. She has worked for ICE since 2002 and been married to Sprecher since 2004. Today -- this kind of arrangement is clearly not too common in corporate America -- she's a member of his management team. She ran marketing, communications, and investor relations at ICE before the merger and is now doing the same at the combined company.
Sprecher says that whenever ICE has bought a company -- and that's happened aplenty -- he's found a cadre of people eager to work and take on more responsibility.
He'll be trying to spot them at the exchange, for sure, because its onetime preeminence as a trading venue has been shattered over the last 15 years by new Securities and Exchange rules that encouraged competition in the markets and transformed them into kind of a shopping bazaar. Sprecher bought into this problem knowing it existed. Now the challenge before him is to find the right people, and the right plan, to fix it.
It ain't what it used to be, says floor trader Kenny Polcari: "technology everywhere" but "a computer doesn't get it."
By D.M. Levine
An earlier version of this post appeared with errors introduced in the editing process. It has been updated and corrected throughout.
FORTUNE -- Kenny Polcari is walking across the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, reminiscing about the good old days. A floor trader with O'Neil Securities, when MOREMay 29, 2013 10:15 AM ET
The NYSE's new owner has historically been aligned with a few large banks.
FORTUNE -- Observers have long been worried about the New York Stock Exchange's ability to police stock trading so that it's fair for all investors. The acquisition by the InterContinental Exchange (ICE), which in late-December agreed to buy the NYSE (NYX) for $8.2 billion, may make matters worse.
Historically, the NYSE has been what's called a self-regulating organization. The MOREStephen Gandel, senior editor - Jan 7, 2013 11:26 AM ET
Traders say there were unexplained price swings and "quote spamming."
FORTUNE -- When stocks reopened for trading on Wednesday, for the first time since Hurricane Sandy, the market was a rare bit of calm. Stocks were bought and sold. Trading was never halted. The market even went up a bit.
To the average investor, it was an average day, and, other than what lead up to it, an unexciting one at that.
But MOREStephen Gandel, senior editor - Nov 6, 2012 12:15 PM ET
An increase in stock trading rule changes is making it hard for firms to keep up.
FORTUNE -- Perhaps the only thing moving faster than high-frequency traders are the changes to the rules that govern how they trade.
On the day of the flub that cost Knight Capital Group (KCG) $440 million in 45 minutes and briefly caused turmoil in over 100 stocks, the New York Stock Exchange issued three changes to MOREStephen Gandel, senior editor - Aug 8, 2012 2:40 PM ET
Building error-free trading software is impossible, and that makes today's stock markets even more fragile.
FORTUNE -- One question keeps arising in the saga of Knight Capital and its $440 million software glitch: why did Knight, one of the premier U.S. market makers that handles more than 10% of total stock trading, introduce glitchy software into the market?
CEO Thomas Joyce explained in a television interview that the company's new software program MOREScott Cendrowski, writer - Aug 3, 2012 2:17 PM ET
The high frequency trading battle between exchanges and market makers is resulting in big losses not just for Wall Street, but, likely, for us too.
Update 11:00 pm
FORTUNE -- In life there are few coincidences, and this one probably isn't either: The day Knight Capital Group's computers nearly blew up the market and lost the firm $440 million in 45 minutes is the same day that the New York Stock Exchange MOREStephen Gandel, senior editor - Aug 2, 2012 4:32 PM ET
The NYSE says uneven regulation is sending more and more trades into Wall Street's so-called dark pool and hurting investors.
FORTUNE -- The owner of the New York Stock Exchange says it's being picked on. And that could be hurting investors as well.
A top official at the NYSE Euronext, which owns the U.S.'s largest stock exchange, says regulators are singling out the NYSE and other listed markets in enforcing stock trading MOREStephen Gandel, senior editor - Mar 8, 2012 11:54 AM ET
The planned merger between the NYSE and the Deutsche Boerse has stalled, but the exchanges might revive it if they go after their largest competitors: The banks.
By Cyrus Sanati, contributor
FORTUNE -- The $17 billion mega merger between the New York Stock Exchange and Germany's Deutsche Boerse may look dead, but there's still a pulse. Company officials have just under three weeks to convince top leaders in the European Union that MOREJan 13, 2012 10:01 AM ET
The Nasdaq wants the NYSE, and the NYSE wants the Deutsche Bourse. This love triangle is going to get even more tangled before it sorts out.
By Cyrus Sanati, contributor
There seems to be little stopping the New York Stock Exchange in going ahead with its planned merger with Deutsche Bourse -- not even the promise of more money. The NYSE board's unequivocal rejection this week of an alternate ties up with MOREApr 13, 2011 5:00 AM ET
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