The New York Stock Exchange and the Archipelago Exchange announced last Wednesday that they have entered a merger agreement that will lead to the combined entity, NYSE Group, Inc., which would become the world's biggest stock exchange, valued at $4.7 billion; NYSE is worth $3.3 billion.

But according to reports over the weekend and again this morning, Richard A. Grasso, the Big Board's ousted chairman, is in talks with Wall Street bigwigs, to create a rival securities exchange of his own. One of those financiers is said to include Kenneth G. Langone, co-founder of Home Depot and former chairman of the compensation committee at the NYSE, which so richly rewarded Grasso. The reports first surfaced over the weekend at The Wall Street Journal Web site and appeared again this morning in the online edition of the New York Times.

If approved by regulators, NYSE members and Archipelago shareholders, the merger will represent the largest-ever securities exchange and combine the world's leading equities market with the most successful totally open, fully electronic exchange. NYSE Group would be a for-profit, publicly-held company.

Under the terms of the agreement, NYSE members will receive cash and stock in the new company, while Archipelago shareholders will receive stock. Current Archipelago shareholders will hold 30% of the shares of the new company and current NYSE owners will hold 70%.

NYSE CEO John Thain will become CEO of NYSE Group, and Archipelago CEO Jerry Putnam will join the NYSE's Catherine R. Kinney and Robert G. Britz as the new company's co-presidents.

The deal is expected to close either in the fourth quarter of this year or the first quarter of next year.

The staff of Money Management Executive ("MME") has prepared these capsule summaries based on reports published by the news sources to which they are attributed. Those news sources are not associated with MME, and have not prepared, sponsored, endorsed, or approved these summaries.

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