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AT WICK'S END
Wick Simmons came out of retirement in February 2001 to run the Nasdaq Stock Market.
He may wish he had stuck with the life of leisure. Following a series of setbacks, including the closing of Nasdaq Japan and a slow start for its new SuperMontage trading platform, Nasdaq last month announced that Simmons would resign sometime this year, after a replacement is found. The announcement came hours after the New York Post reported that the board was preparing to force out its chairman and CEO. But Simmons' downfall was bad timing, not incompetence: The stock market's previous chairman, Frank Zarb, bequeathed him a raft of expensive projects that just haven't worked (Institutional Investor, September 2002). The big loser in all this could be Zarb's new employer, San Francisco based buyout shop Hellman & Friedman, which in March 2001 paid $240 million for the equivalent of a 10 percent stake in Nasdaq. At the time, an IPO for Nasdaq seemed imminent. "What's going to further increase the value of Nasdaq going forward is to increase the speed of transition from the mutual to the for-profit structure," says a source close to Nasdaq. Simmons did not return a call seeking comment. The source insists that Simmons' departure was not a surprise. "It was Wick's decision," he says. "It was a three-year contract. He's 61 years old. It was never really his plan to work beyond three years."