Jack Sandner, whose epic battles with Leo Melamed over leadership of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange reflected and defined the tumult and outsider status of the city's futures markets, has died. He was 79.
Mr. Melamed confirmed Sandner's death. "It's a sad, sad day," he said in a statement.
Mr. Sandner chaired the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in three stints during the 1980s and 1990s and was on the board in 2002 when it became the first exchange to go public, setting the stage for acquisition of its once dominant rival, the Chicago Board of Trade.
He was a feisty, bantam figure who boxed in 60 amateur bouts and won a Golden Gloves title. He was also a lawyer who borrowed money to buy a Chicago Mercantile Exchange membership after going to a holiday party in Mr. Melamed's office — where he became involved in a fistfight. "I was pretty wired and not too measured at the time."
Mr. Sandner headed the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in 1987, when Chicago's exchanges were accused of exacerbating the stock market crash.
"We were Darth Vader," Mr. Sandner recalled in an interview with John Lothian News. He fought back, testifying before Congress. His take on the exchanges' alleged responsibility for the crash: "It's not the tail wagging the dog. It's the hair on the tail wagging the dog. It's ludicrous."
Another threat to the exchanges emerged in the late 1980s when federal agents posed as traders in an undercover sting operation. Indicted were 46 Chicago Mercantile Exchange and CBOT traders who were charged with racketeering and fraud and lying to agents.
Mr. Sandner claimed more corruption could be found at a hot dog stand, "but it was a real, real bad period," he said.
Messrs. Sandner and Melamed were an unmatched pair of egos personifying the two dominant ethnic cultures of local traders. Mr. Sandner was Chicago Irish, Mr. Melamed a Jewish refugee from Poland.
"Leo and I were always friends, but there was always some issues," Mr. Sandner recalled.
They worked together to modernize the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, introducing an early version of electronic trading three decades ago to get ahead of a trend that would decimate traditional open-outcry trading pits.
In a 2018 Chicago Tribune story, Mr. Melamed deemed Mr. Sandner crucial to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange's success as it overtook and ultimately swallowed the CBOT.
This story was published by Crain's Chicago Business, a sister publication to Pensions & Investments.