As the New York Stock Exchange (search) pursues its acquisition of electronic rival Archipelago Holdings Inc. (search), a seat on the Big Board sold Wednesday for a record $3 million.

Raymond Pellecchia (search), an NYSE spokesman, did not disclose details of the transaction, as is customary for the privately held exchange. The previous record for a seat sale was $2.65 million, set Aug. 23, 1999, during the height of the dot-com era.

Since then, the price of seats — which give the owners an equity stake in the exchange as well as the right to trade stocks on the floor — had fallen considerably, falling to $975,000 on Jan. 11. However, the proposed $6 billion deal with Archipelago, which would transform the NYSE into a publicly traded company, has boosted interest in owning one of the exchange's 1,366 seats.

"Clearly this is a response on the NYSE's recent performance and, we believe, a reflection on the market's positive reaction toward the NYSE's proposed merger with Archipelago," John Thain, chief executive officer of the exchange, said in a statement.

Under the agreement, seat owners are expected to receive approximately $3.5 million in cash and stock in the combined company, to be called NYSE Group Inc. The trading rights that seat holders enjoy — and often lease to other floor traders to generate income — will revert to the exchange, which will auction off those rights annually.

The current offer price for a seat on the exchange is now $3.2 million. The highest bid is $2.63 million, the NYSE said.

The acquisition is expected to close in early 2006, pending approval by the NYSE's seat owners and Archipelago's shareholders. While many seat holders have been clamoring for the exchange to go public for years, three seat owners have sued the exchange to stop the deal, claiming it undervalues the 213-year-old institution.

Shares of Archipelago gained 55 cents to $40.25 on the Pacific Stock Exchange.