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PHLX ends its 218-year run

Philadelphia Stock Exchange marks its sale to Nasdaq, ending 218 years as the nation's first stock market.

Leaders of the Philadelphia Stock Exchange, which has been purchased by Nasdaq, met for the last time Tuesday night in the garden of the Old City Tavern, where the market was organized as the new United States' first securities market in 1790.

On hand to mark the passing and clap politely for Mayor Nutter and other dignitaries were eight former PHLX presidents or chairmen. "It's a bittersweet night," said John Egan, who once  compared the job of leading the chronically competitive and fractious traders to "running the Gladiators' Union in Imperial Rome."

"You know how Philadelphia is divided politically into 68 wards? We used to say the Exchange was the 69th Ward. The Fighting 69th," said Nicholas Giordano.

Egan, Giordano and their elders were united in praise of their final successor, Meyer "Sandy" Frucher, the New Yorker that exchange members and officers feared had been sent by the SEC to sell and close what had become the nation's smallest stock and options market when he took over 10 years ago.

When an initial sale plan blew up, Frucher was forced to appeal to member factions for their support. He won some concessions, made others, boosted market share, and finally won approval for a reorganization that made possible the Nasdaq deal and the inclusion of former member-owners in the proceeds.

In his talk, Frucher linked the exchange to its former neighbor, that museum of democracy, Indepdence Hall. The Declaration of Independence made personal freedom a national goal, the Constitution "brought that definition to more and more people," while "widening access to power, economic opportunity, and upward social mobility" -- which is "exactly what capital markets do."

Nasdaq will keep the PHLX open as an options-trading center. "As long as they're profitable, they'll be here," said Giordano. "The business will make that decision. It won't be emotional."

Nasdaq's Chris Concannon sounded humble on that point: "When you look at all the history - we're just simple stewards."