NYFSE and Alibaba to Nasdaq: Suck it big time, chumps

By Sarah Lacy , written on June 26, 2014

From The News Desk

I'll admit it: I love when I'm right.

Back when the Nasdaq utterly and completely screwed up Facebook's IPO (with a little help from Facebook and their bankers, admittedly) I called that big IPOs were going to rush into the NYSE's arms. I was hearing it from VCs and board members of late stage companies left and right. Reid Hoffman echoed my sentiment at his PandoMonthly repeating after me in agreement "it was a pretty egregious fuck up."

The New York Stock Exchange debuted more tech IPOs last year than the NASDAQ for the first time in 19 years. Most notable was Twitter. And the NYSE made enough hay with that one to inspire Monet for years. Their CNBC performance on Twitter IPO day was so baller we renamed them the NYFSE. From my story back then:

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. And now-- as widely expected-- the NYFSE is getting Alibaba, which could be the largest IPO in years. The New York Times notes that the NASDAQ still got 57% of IPOs this year but those are mostly in biotech. NYFSE is getting all the big ones and it all goes back to Facebook-- a deal that the two competed over for years.

It's an ironic triumph of human power of machine power for an industry that loves its robots and algorithms.