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ICE's Sprecher to Niederauer: I'm Sorry

Jeffrey Sprecher, the chief executive of the IntercontinentalExchange (NYSE:ICE), appears to have a message he wants delivered to one-time nemesis, New York Stock Exchange chief Duncan Niederauer: I'm sorry.

The FOX Business Network has learned that Sprecher approached a senior executive of the Big Board to deliver what has been described as a "mea culpa" to Niederauer while attending an industry conference in London last week. The move is one of the more unusual developments as the dust settles on the ICE's contentious and ultimately unsuccessful battle to mount a hostile takeover of the NYSE, a move designed to upend the exchange's planned merger with the Deutsche Borse.

The ICE, along with its partner in the takeover attempt, the Nasdaq Stock Market, was forced to withdraw its offer after antitrust regulators threatened to sue both parties on the grounds that breaking up the NYSE-Deutsche Borse deal would lead to a monopoly since the Nasdaq and the NYSE would control nearly all U.S. stock listings.

But not before Sprecher joined Nasdaq chief Bob Greifeld and went on the offensive against the board of directors and the management of the NYSE. In a joint letter with Greifeld, Sprecher urged NYSE shareholders to support his bid and criticized NYSE for not "liv(ing) up to the principles that they espouse for the stockholders of the companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange."

Now Sprecher may be having a change of heart. "He told a senior person at the NYSE, 'I'm sorry it got personal,'" said one person with direct knowledge of the conversation that took place last week. This person also said that Sprecher all but blamed the level of acrimony on Greifeld, who he said "was carrying the ball" on the NYSE takeover attempt, while he took a back seat during process.

Sprecher himself would not comment on the matter. A spokesman for the ICE confirmed that a conversation took place, but said it wasn't an apology. "Appreciation was expressed for keeping the debate factual rather than personal throughout the bid. That approach was agreed and upheld by Jeff and Bob."

A spokesman for the NYSE had no comment.

Both Sprecher and Greifeld have kept fairly low profiles since the takeover attempt failed in mid-May, though Sprecher was spotted at an industry conference today sponsored by Sandler O'Neill & Co. As FOX Business was first to report, Greifeld cancelled his scheduled speaking appearance at the conference as well an address he was scheduled to make at another conference next week, fueling speculation that the Nasdaq might be ready to announce a major deal such as a purchase of the London Clearing House.

There is also speculation that Greifeld's job might be on the line in the wake of the failed NYSE takeover. A Nasdaq spokesman would only say that Greifeld cancelled the speeches because of scheduling conflicts.

As for Sprecher, the consensus among analysts is that his job is secure, but these same analysts also question his harsh commentary about the NYSE during the takeover attempt. Indeed, his once-cordial relationship with Niederauer may be on the rocks permanently. 

"Duncan resented the personal nature of the attacks," said one person with knowledge of the matter. "He expected that kind of stuff coming from Greifeld because they were long time competitors, but not Sprecher."


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