Change at the Exchange

The NYSE's finance chief turns down the top strategy job; where to lay your money on the outcome of the Enron trial.
Kate O'SullivanMarch 15, 2006

With the New York Stock Exchange and Archipelago Holdings merger nearly complete, the role of executive vice president of strategy at the new entity would seem full of growth opportunities. But that is apparently not enough for Amy Butte, the NYSE finance chief who announced her resignation last month despite having been tapped for the top strategy job.

“I would now like to combine my experiences and lead a forward-looking, growth-minded organization,” Butte said in a statement. She plans to remain at the Exchange until the end of May.

While the announcement came as a surprise to Wall Street, there is speculation that the high-flying former analyst is aiming for a more senior post. “It sounds like she wants more of a CEO-type job,” says Richard Herr, an equity analyst who covers Archipelago for Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc. “I would imagine opportunities come across her desk, and maybe one of them was enticing enough that she decided to leave.”

The farewell announcement marks the third in recent months at the Big Board. Former NYSE president and co-operating chief Robert Britz retired at the end of last year rather than reprise his role at the combined company, and general counsel Richard Bernard plans to leave in June. With former Archipelago executives expected to fill all three roles, the merged management team will usher in a new era at the NYSE. Butte will be succeeded by Nelson Chai, who had been CFO at Archipelago.

Butte joined the Exchange in February 2004 as one of CEO John Thain’s earliest hires during the turmoil following Richard Grasso’s ouster. While there has been no word of a new assignment yet, as one of the highest-profile women on Wall Street, she is not likely to be out of work for long.

Lay-ing Odds

Think you know the outcome of the ongoing trial of former Enron executives Jeffrey Skilling and Kenneth Lay? Want to bet?

If so, two Websites are willing to take your money. At futures-trading site Intrade, based in Ireland, visitors can purchase futures contracts based on whether Lay and Skilling will be found guilty of a certain number of the charges. (Other current events available for speculation: whether former Vice Presidential aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby will be found guilty; whether the United States will close its military base at Guantanamo Bay; and who will win on the reality show “American Idol.”) The second site, Costa Rica International Sports, has the odds of a Lay conviction at 1 to 50 and a Skilling conviction at 1 to 100.

Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University in Michigan, jokingly suggests other ways to get in on the action on his White Collar Crime Prof Blog. “Rather than betting on a conviction, which is rather unseemly, an interesting exercise would be to figure out other [proposition] bets on the trial that have nothing to do with the outcome, similar to prop bets on the Super Bowl, like which team will win the coin toss,” he writes. “Who will be the first attorney to attempt a Johnnie Cochran rhyme or which defendant will testify first?” With the second witness not taking the stand until the third week of proceedings, such side bets may be the only action trial-watchers see during the many days before the verdict. — K.O’S.