In ICE-NYSE deal, a shark swallows a whale

by Brenon Daly

For all of the talk about the disruptive forces that have reshaped the tech landscape through M&A, the changes – at least at the high end of the market – have been largely incremental. Just take a look at deal flow so far this year. We’ve seen a bit of big-ticket telco consolidation as well as a pair of multibillion-dollar take-privates, the largest of which would see the current CEO play a leading role in not only the transaction itself but also the operation of the company after the close. It’s hardly dramatic stuff.

Certainly, we would argue that not one of those deals comes anywhere close to the upheaval embodied by the IntercontinentalExchange’s (ICE) planned acquisition of NYSE Euronext. The deal, which was backed by NYSE shareholders today, may well be the ultimate example of a startup gobbling up an established vendor.

For starters, the roles in the transaction are flipped from what we would expect in a typical tech deal. (Indeed, the NYSE has been a busy buyer in recent years, expanding into electronic trading platforms and consolidating old-line exchanges both in the US and abroad via M&A.) Consider the fact that ICE is barely more than a decade old while the fabled NYSE traces its roots back to 1792. And while ICE is the buyer, it is less than half the size of the NYSE, or the ‘Big Board’ as it is known on Wall Street.

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