Amy I. Kahn Photography
Kelly Loeffler, left, ICE senior vice president, with husband Jeff Sprecher, chairman and CEO, discuss their acquisition of the New York Stock Exchange at the Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber of Commerce annual meeting on Jan. 16.

Jeff Sprecher says he could see right away the difference buying the iconic New York Stock Exchange made for his Sandy Springs-based company.

“It’s really changed our lives,” Sprecher said of the acquisition of the New York exchange last year. “We’re getting attention from all over the world.”

A college friend texted him to say, “Who knew you could actually buy that thing?”

New York’s historic stock exchange is only one of 16 exchanges owned by IntercontinentalExchange, or ICE, which calls itself the leading global network of exchanges and clearing houses.

And ICE is close to buying the Singapore exchange, which would make it the first western company to own an Asian market, Sprecher, ICE chairman and CEO, and his wife, ICE senior vice president Kelly Loeffler, told more than 200 people attending the Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting on Jan. 16.

Sprecher joked that he was more impressed that his company owned the New York Board of Trade, an exchange he said he knew because it was featured in the movie “Trading Places.” “I think, in a way that’s more iconic,” he said.

Sprecher said ICE’s business has been made possible by new technology. “We own exchanges around the world. … [They’re] run out of an office building in Sandy Springs because of the Internet. It’s a fascinating thing to take a legacy business like the New York Stock Exchange and put the Internet in it.”

He and Loeffler said businesses have been willing to embrace change and find ways to capitalize on it. “I love change,” Sprecher said. “It’s very interesting. We all hate change. We all want to go home and sleep in the same bed. As humans we hate change. But businesses really thrive on change.”

Sprecher said the company’s roots go back to an Atlanta-based company he bought in 1997 for $1. “Today, it’s a $25 billion company,” he said.

After buying the company, called Continental Power Exchange, he called his new employees together and, thinking they would be pleased by the news, told them they could all relocate to Los Angeles. “It took about 10 minutes,” he said. “They all said, ‘None of us is going to Los Angeles.’”

ICE now employs about 400 in Sandy Springs of the 4,000 it employs around the world, said Loeffler, who also is co-owner of the Atlanta Dream, a WNBA professional basketball team. “We continue to hire,” she said. “We’re in growth mode, particularly in technology.”

Sprecher said he has discovered that metro Atlanta wasn’t the place he thought it was. “When I was living in LA, I thought this was a place with pickup trucks and old hound dogs,” he said. “The truth is this is an unbelievable diverse community.”

Sprecher said his company works to update its markets through use of technology. The New York Stock Exchange, he said, opened in 1792. “You go there and there are artifacts and history that are very interesting,” he said.

“The challenge for us is, can we take this lightweight, Internet-based company, based in Sandy Springs, and marry it with something iconic? The address [of the New York Stock Exchange] is 11 Wall Street, which is why you know ‘Wall Street.’ How do you marry this brand with this lightweight company?”

And a few perks come with owning a company such as the New York Stock Exchange. He’s rung the bell to start trading, he said. “I’ve got a special badge that has a little mark on it,” he said. “When I walk through, they don’t know who I am, but they know what that badge means.”

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.

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