NYSE, Twitter's IPO, and CNBC to Nasdaq: Suck it, chumps

By Sarah Lacy , written on November 7, 2013

From The News Desk

I can't remember the last time I woke up and turned on CNBC like it was Christmas Morning, transfixed with every word. Oh yeah, it was Facebook's IPO.

For those of us who don't live in the late 1990s or on the East Coast, the theatre of CNBC can seem almost an anthropological experience. Everything is BREAKING! or EXCLUSIVE! A bunch of white guys who seem to barely understand how to use Twitter are opining on everything from what the founders are thinking to what it could be worth in six months. And they just gotta fill, fill, fill.

As they were awaiting the opening bell, Jim Cramer even waxed poetic about the "little people" ringing the bell while the founders were on the floor, saying it was a emblematic of Twitter's role in global democracy. Um...

But I'll tell you who "won" CNBC this morning: The New York Fucking Stock Exchange. They pulled off such a baller move this morning, let's call them the NYFSE for the rest of the day.

As everyone -- including Twitter's CEO Dick Costolo -- has said, this IPO was designed to be the anti-Facebook IPO. That included going with the New York Stock Exchange, not the NASDAQ. For those who forgot, the NASDAQ played a large role in Facebook's opening day debacle, demoing new trading software that didn't work. Worse, the NASDAQ's head chose to spend the morning in Silicon Valley mugging for pictures while it all went down.

The whole thing played right into the core difference between the two: The NYFSE has a human "Specialist" who controls it all, not just machines with (possibly) buggy software. I've talked to half a dozen CEOs off the record since who made the decision to go with the NYFSE in the aftermath of Facebook solely because of that. Big ones.

But it's not enough that the NYFSE won Twitter. It chose to absolutely rub the NASDAQ's face in it. It granted CNBC "exclusive" "never before seen" access to be on the floor right next to the Specialist. On the face of it, it was a great unique glimpse into the process of price setting. How interesting! But really it was a 90-minute "fuck you NASDAQ" infomercial.

Tell us again how this works? 

Why is it so important that there be a human in charge of setting the opening price? 

And a lot of....

We don't know how long it's going to take, but we're not going to open until we get it right. 

It almost didn't matter how long they stood there. It didn't telegraph weakness -- it telegraphed strength and a commitment to the company. Finally a guy sounding like Walter Winchell yelled out: FORTY-FIVE AND A DIME! And the price was set.

Bob Pisani of CNBC said, "Pretty smooth."

The rep from the NYFSE said, "This is what you want."

And we all heard what he was thinking: Checkmate, NASDAQ. You won Facebook, but we won the war.