Greifeld Sticking Around Nasdaq for 3 More Years

Nasdaq OMX (NASDAQ:NDAQ) chief executive Robert Greifeld has indicated he will stay with the stock exchange for the next three years, enough time to groom his new president, Adena Friedman, as his replacement, the FOX Business Network has learned.

People with direct knowledge of Greifeld’s intentions say the Nasdaq chief will work through the end of his current contract, which lasts the next three years, despite media reports he might step down over the next 12 to 18 months.

The move to work through his contract is motivated by Friedman’s need for “seasoning” as a chief executive, these people say.

A Nasdaq spokesman declined to comment.

Friedman joined the Nasdaq in June from private equity shop Carlyle Group, where she served as chief financial officer for the past three years. But she and Greifeld are far from strangers: She spent 17 years at the Nasdaq before her move to Carlyle and only returned with the understanding she would be Greifeld’s likely successor.

Greifeld, 56, has run the Nasdaq stock market since 2003, and has gained a reputation as a tough cost cutter and for making some bold strategic moves. As first reported by FOX Business, he attempted a hostile takeover of the rival New York Stock Exchange in 2011, only to be thwarted by federal regulators.

Shares of Nasdaq have risen 16.3% over the past 12 months compared to a 6.7% gain for the NYSE. Still, Greifeld has faced his share of controversies, including technological glitches that hampered Facebook’s (NASDAQ:FB) 2010 initial public offering and one that closed down the Nasdaq in 2013.

Those miscues caused the Nasdaq to lose some recent key listing assignments, particularly in the area of technology where the exchange has long dominated. Both Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) and more recently Alibaba chose to have their shares listed on the NYSE, though the Nasdaq has fought back in the listings battle, and this year alone beat out the NYSE in the value of listed tech offerings.

Greifeld has also come under criticism for not having a clear succession plan after his No. 2, Eric Noll, resigned to become the chief executive of ConverEx Group, a brokerage firm.

After Noll’s departure, Greifeld and the Nasdaq board launched an extensive search process; several executives with CEO experience were interviewed, but the board selected the 44-year-old Friedman based on her familiarity with the Nasdaq stock market.

Still, people with knowledge of the move say if the board had chosen an executive with CEO experience, Greifeld would likely have left sooner. Greifeld, meanwhile, has indicated to people he wants to run another company before his career is over.

Amid all of this, Greifeld’s support among Nasdaq board members has remained strong, people with knowledge of the matter say. Board members were particularly impressed with the way he handled the Alibaba negotiations, despite ultimately losing the assignment. Nasdaq was clearly the underdog for the Alibaba listing, but Greifeld personally flew to Hong Kong, and spoke to Alibaba management in an attempt to demonstrate that the exchange improved its technology enough to be trusted.

In the end, Alibaba chose the NYSE but Greifeld made it a more difficult choice, people with knowledge of the matter say.