The newly constituted board of governors at the American Stock Exchange (Amex) has asked acting CEO Neil Wolkoff to stay on permanently. Wolkoff, who took the reigns at Amex following Salvatore "Sal" Sodano's surprise departure in January, gladly accepted the challenge.
"I feel privileged to have the opportunity to lead the American Stock Exchange in this exciting and challenging time in the securities industry," said Wolkoff, in a statement.
The move marks a huge vote of confidence in Wolkoff's leadership. The Amex's new board of governors only took office on April 8, and appointing Wolkoff permanent CEO is their first public action.
"Neal has shown decisive leadership in his short time here and we have complete confidence in his abilities to guide the American Stock Exchange into a new era as an independent securities exchange," said Phillip Frost, M.D., Amex Board Governor and Chairman and CEO of IVAX Corporation, in a statement.
The appointment caps a roller coaster start to the year for the struggling Amex. The Amex became an independent entity for the first time in more than five years on January 1, 2005, after exchange members successfully bought out the ownership stake of the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD). The reverie brought on by this hard-won independence lasted only two weeks before CEO Sal Sodano stunned the financial community by abruptly announcing his retirement on January 13, taking $22 million in retirement payouts with him.
Succession plans were complicated by the fact that the Amex was required to appoint a new board of governors reflecting its new independent status. The vestigial board appointed Neil Wolkoff, a NYMEX veteran, as acting CEO, while Amex members worked on constituting their new board of governors.
Now that the leadership circle is in place, it's time for the real work to begin. Wolkoff takes the reigns at a perilous time for the Amex, which is losing market share as traders move volume to competing exchanges with more sophisticated electronic trading systems. The Amex doesn't really have an electronic trading system to speak of, and you can be sure that putting one in place is the number one item on Wolkoff's "To Do" list.