To: Ms. Edith Shain,
Final Resting Place,
Dear Ms. Shain,
You are famous to all of us because you are widely believed to be the nurse in the iconic 1945 photo of the jubilant V-J Day celebration in Times Square. The single most recognized graphic image of America’s victory in World War II is this photograph. New York City was the center of the universe.
On June 20, 2010, at the age of 91, you died. And apparently, the New York Stock Exchange is about to give up the ghost, too.
The New York Stock Exchange, first started under a buttonwood tree on what was then Wall Street, 219 years ago, is about to be purchased by Deutsche Börse. According to reporting by the Financial Times, the new company, incorporated in the Netherlands, would be 60 percent owned by Deutsche Börse shareholders and 40 percent by investors in NYSE Euronext (the product of a 2007 merger).
It is projected by the same reporting that nine of the merged group’s 17 board members would be appointed by Deutsche Börse and 6 by NYSE. The CEO of the merged entity will, according to the Wall Street Journal, be the current NYSE Euronext CEO, Duncan Niederauer, whose father was born in Germany, but who reportedly does not speak German. Ms. Shain, I suppose it is obvious that if you had not had anything to celebrate, we would all be speaking German today.
The Wall Street Journal, in its front-page article, said that this move is “symbolic of the city’s fading dominance on the world stage.” The New York Times, in its front-page article, referred to the New York Stock Exchange as a symbol of American capitalism for more than two centuries. The senior senator from New York, Charles Schumer, stated that “the New York Stock Exchange is the cradle of American capitalism . . . [and] a national treasure.” He went on to urge that, regardless of the new ownership, the words “New York Stock Exchange” remain first in the name of the merged company. Most of the financial press has reported that the name is up for grabs, with some suggesting a name not specific to any location, such as “the Global Exchange.”
Immediately before the merger talks between Deutsche Börse and the NYSE were disclosed, President Barack Obama, in his State of the Union speech, referred to our looming debt as a “Sputnik moment.” Of course, the real Sputnik moment was when the Russians eclipsed the United States’ space technology by putting up the first satellite, Sputnik. But if anything is a Sputnik moment now for the American economy and its ability to react to technological change, the loss of the NYSE is truly it—or perhaps it’s the German moment.