By Jessica Toonkel and John McCrank
NEW YORK, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Nasdaq OMX Group Inc said on Monday Eric Noll, the exchange operator's top internal candidate to replace Chief Executive Robert Greifeld, is leaving to become president and chief executive of brokerage ConvergEx.
Noll will replace Joseph Velli, current CEO of ConvergEx, which is owned by Chicago-based private equity firm GTCR and Bank of New York Mellon, by the end of the year, ConvergEx said.
"This was a unique opportunity to be a CEO of an important player in the market place," Noll said in an interview. He said he was approached about the job in recent weeks and that he will start at ConvergEx immediately.
Noll said there are no immediate plans for an initial public offering or a sale of the firm.
"I am interested in going there to build a business, to grow a business, to take advantage of opportunities," he said, adding that ConvergEx's growth would be both organically and through acquisitions under his leadership.
Nasdaq said it would assess both internal and external candidates for Noll's replacement and that it plans to fill the role near the end of the first quarter.
Tom Wittman, a former president of the Nasdaq OMX PHLX options market who now manages all of Nasdaq's products and pricing for U.S. equities and derivatives, is likely to fill Noll's position, said two sources who wished to remain anonymous because they are not permitted to speak to the media.
Brian Hyndman, senior vice president of global data products at Nasdaq, could also be considered for the role, one of the people said.
Nasdaq has been at the center of a few high-profile problems in the past couple of years, most recently in August, when all Nasdaq stocks were halted for three hours due to a glitch in a data-processing system run by the exchange operator. Last year Nasdaq was in the spotlight after it botched Facebook Inc's market debut, eventually agreeing to pay up to $41.6 million to firms harmed in the IPO and a $10 million fine to regulators.
Noll was not directly responsible for either of those incidents, but was still under pressure as a result of them, numerous industry sources said.
The departure of Noll, who masterminded Nasdaq's $750 million purchase of electronic Treasuries-trading platform eSpeed that closed in July, leaves a hole in Nasdaq's succession planning process.
Nasdaq's board and its executives have been working on succession planning with some urgency since early 2011 when Adena Friedman, then chief financial officer, left to join private equity firm Carlyle Group LP.
Greifeld had been positioning Friedman as his successor, and her departure put a spotlight on the lack of depth in the management bench.
There are a host of external candidates for the top job at Nasdaq, Friedman included, though Greifeld has no immediate plans to leave the company, sources told Reuters in September.
Besides Friedman, external candidates on the list include Xavier Rolet, CEO of the London Stock Exchange ; Magnus Bocker, CEO of the Singapore Exchange Ltd ; Craig Donohue, former CEO of CME Group Inc, who is taking a job at OCC, the clearinghouse for all U.S. stock options; Tom Kloet, CEO of Canada's TMX Group Ltd ; and Chris Concannon, formerly of Nasdaq and now a partner at trading firm Virtu Financial.
Noll, an expert on market structure and a former Susquehanna International Group executive, was hired by Nasdaq to replace Concannon a little more than four years ago.
Fox Business Network reported earlier on Monday that Noll, who heads execution services at Nasdaq, was leaving the company.