Jeff Sprecher, a self-described "serial entrepreneur," was living in Los Angeles in 1997 when he purchased a failing company, Continental Power Exchange, for only $1.
“I bought it over a weekend and didn’t tell the management team,” he said of the business, which had an undisclosed amount of debt. “I showed up on a Monday morning and laid off the entire management team. To the other employees, I said, ‘Good news, I’m going to move everyone to Los Angeles.’ … It took about 10 minutes for people who were really in shock to say, ‘None of us are going to Los Angeles.’ It became pretty apparent they were not going to move, so I had to commute here. That company was located in Sandy Springs.”
In 2000 Sprecher, the business' chairman and CEO, changed its name to IntercontinentalExchange Inc. He and his wife, Kelly Loeffler, senior vice president of corporate communications, marketing and investor relations, talked about its history and success during the Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber of Commerce’s annual luncheon Thursday at Villa Christina in Brookhaven.
Today Intercontinental, still based in Sandy Springs, is worth $25 billion and in November it completed the purchase of the New York Stock Exchange's parent company, NYSE Euronext, for $8.2 billion. It was founded to develop a transparent marketplace for over-the-counter energy markets, has 4,000 employees and currently owns 16 exchanges worldwide, with plans to buy another, the Singapore Mercantile Exchange, by the end of the month, Sprecher and Loeffler said.
Loeffler and Sprecher, who live in Buckhead, grew up in Stanford, Ill., and Madison, Wis., respectively. They attributed their success to strong work ethics and a love for their jobs. Loeffler, who co-owns the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream franchise with Kelly Brock, was considering buying another team, the Los Angeles Sparks, but has decided not to.
“In the WNBA, half of the teams are owned by NBA owners,” Loeffler said. “The Sparks are actually owned by a family [the Madisons] and now they’re looking for a new owner. [The NBA’s] Golden State is looking at picking up a new [WNBA] franchise. We don’t know how that’s going to come out, and I can’t comment on it.”
Said Sprecher, “She was on the phone in the car on the way here with the WNBA commissioner [Laurel Richie]. … I said, ‘Tell her we’ll buy it. Tell her we’ll buy it.’”
But in an email Friday, Loeffler said she was never seriously interested in purchasing the Sparks.
In recent years Intercontinental looked at moving its office, considering other metro Atlanta communities before deciding to remain in Sandy Springs, where it has 420 employees. Later this year it will move into a building a half mile from its current location, Loeffler said.
Sprecher talked about how the company quietly became a global player in the financial markets.
“The challenge for us and the opportunity is can we take this lightweight Internet-based company based in Sandy Springs that does business around the world because of the Internet, and marry it with something iconic?” Sprecher said, referring to the NYSE. “A lot of what we do there will be run out of an office building in Sandy Springs because of the ability to use the Internet.”
In other chamber news, outgoing Chairman Cory Jackson, regional manager/vice president of Fidelity Bank, passed the baton to 2014 Chairman Jim Kelley, partner in Kelley Sammons Toole & Ellison LLP, a Sandy Springs accounting firm.