Sean Sullivan, Chief Revenue Officer at LiquidityBook, died Saturday, November 13 following complications from surgery to remove a brain tumor. He was 58. Sullivan – affectionately known industry-wide as “Sully” – was a pioneer in the trading technology space and a gifted salesman, with a career spanning over three decades and throughout unprecedented innovation across the industry.
Before joining LiquidityBook, Sullivan’s resume included senior sales roles at REDI, Eze Castle Software, Bridge Information Systems and Thomson Reuters. Along the way, he helped multiple businesses scale, launched dozens of careers and forged strong connections and friendships on both sides of the Street. He began his career on the sell side, working first as a financial adviser at Dean Witter and later as an equity trader at Credit Lyonnais.
“If you walk onto a buy- or sell-side trading desk in any major city, Sully’s name will elicit a smile and a story of what he did for them,” said Sean Westley, a longtime prime brokerage sales executive with firms including Goldman Sachs and UBS, and now a Partner at alternative investment advisory Kelly Park Capital. “He loved this industry deeply and personified the best of what it strives to be about: camaraderie, loyalty, generosity, honesty and empathy.”
In a career full of successes, Sullivan will perhaps be best remembered for his time at Eze Castle (now SS&C Eze), which he helped transform into a global investment management technology leader beginning in 2001. Over the course of a decade, he oversaw a sales organization that grew global revenues from $10 million to over $150 million. He served on the firm’s executive leadership team and opened five sales offices around the world.
It was not his first major success, nor would it be his last. Prior to Eze, Sullivan rose to become EVP of Sales for Bridge Information Systems, a financial news and data provider eventually acquired by Reuters Group. Most recently, he oversaw sales, marketing and business development efforts at OMS provider LiquidityBook, where he helped scale the business by setting yearly records for revenues and client wins.
“Sully was a force of nature and, as he always liked to remind me, much more than ‘just a sales guy,’” said Kevin Samuel, CEO of LiquidityBook. “In his time here, he was instrumental in all aspects of our growth. His tenure saw us triple our revenues and headcount, with many of our most senior technical and management hires, as well as key vendors and partners, being on his recommendation. He truly helped our firm ‘level up,’ and has left an indelible mark on the culture and history of the firm. He will be sorely missed and frequently remembered.”
But as effective as Sullivan was at boosting the bottom line, the good times shared with those who crossed his path had an even greater impact. Guy Cirillo, SVP of Sales at real-time market data provider Exegy, is one of many prominent industry executives who have fond memories of working with Sullivan. The pair first met over 25 years ago when their respective firms were merged to form Bridge and, according to Cirillo, became fast friends.
“Although we only worked together for a brief time at Bridge, Sully was a constant presence in my professional life, always figuring out ways to collaborate and help, which he did for all his friends. He was just so fun – always a laugh and a story. I was fortunate to share many of both over numerous evenings full of good food, drinks and cigars around the world. I will forever have a smile on my face when I think about him.”
The two ultimately settled five minutes from each other in Fairfield County, Connecticut, and would see each other regularly. According to Cirillo, Sullivan’s main focus was singular: his 12-year-old son.
“I had dinner with Sean the week before his surgery, and his only concern was Riley. He loved him so, so much,” said Cirillo.
Westley said that was clear during their final conversation just a few weeks ago. While they touched on familiar topics – music (AC/DC vs Run DMC), TV (The Wire vs Game of Thrones) and cigar bars (Prime 112 vs Grand Havana Room) – Sullivan was mostly eager to talk about Riley, who was about to enter the playoffs as a member of the New Canaan Youth Football team.
“Throughout his career, Sully’s personal motto had always been ‘Clients First.’ But 12 years ago, it became ‘Riley First.’ His priorities completely changed, but all while still building several global businesses,” said Westley.
Tom Kane, a former sales executive with Knight Capital, Optimark Technologies, Fidelity Capital Markets, BNY Convergex and Rosenblatt Securities, was another longtime industry friend who respected Sullivan not only as a businessman, but as a father.
“I first met Sully when he was at Bridge, and it was clear he was one of the best salespeople I was ever going to encounter,” said Kane. “But for as much professional respect as I had for him, I had more for him as an individual. He mentored my daughter as she started out in her career. Sully could light up any room with his smile and laugh, and I know we all will miss him dearly.”
Sullivan made a mark not just on his colleagues, but on clients as well. To him, sales was about more than simply matching a great product and a firm with a need – it also meant serving as a source of information, sounding board and strategic ally.
David Dalzell, Founder and CEO of outsourced trading firm Dalzell Trading, was a longtime client of Sullivan’s, first at BlackRock, where Dalzell ran the firm’s Boston-based equity and options trading desk, and later at Dalzell, which leverages LiquidityBook as its OMS. Sullivan’s gift was not just in relationships, said Dalzell, but in having a deep understanding of the investment management process and his clients’ needs as well.
“Being a good salesperson and relationship manager requires a lot more than just being a people person, which Sully certainly was,” said Dalzell. “It’s about being attentive without being overbearing, it’s about being a resource and an advocate for your clients, and it’s about being experienced and knowledgeable enough to bring forward creative solutions that allow all sides to win. Sully was extremely smart about this industry, which was just as important to his success as the way he’d make you feel.”
Yet for all his success as a salesperson, Sullivan viewed the training and development of his people as equally important, according to those who worked for him.
A.J. De Rosa, now Chief Revenue Officer at security firm Evolv Technology, was Sullivan’s first hire at Eze, in 2002. According to De Rosa, not only did Sullivan guide the OMS provider to great success, but he also played an instrumental role in shaping the careers of many members of the sales organization.
“The man had a gift for making absolutely everyone feel special, and he taught us that the relationships you build along the way are part of what defines you both personally and professionally,” said De Rosa. “I know I am not the only one who owes him a huge amount of gratitude for my growth as a person and a professional. The world has lost a truly unique and amazing human being – I will miss him terribly.”
Simon Clark, who worked for him at Eze in London after Sullivan built out the firm’s European business, had a similar experience.
“Sean believed in me early on in my career and gave me the confidence to grow and become the man I am today. You can have a positive impact on many people’s lives through belief and encouragement, and Sully was a great example of that,” he said.
Mark Dowd, Managing Partner at Forefront Communications and another former colleague whose career Sullivan helped mold, noted that he “owes a tremendous debt of gratitude” for the professional support Sullivan provided.
“Sully hired me to run marketing under him at REDI, became Forefront’s first client when we launched the firm a few years later and was our most vocal champion after that,” said Dowd. “There are certain people who end up playing an outsized role in your career, and for me, he was one of the most important. I will truly miss him, both as a mentor and a friend.”
Sullivan was born and raised in Guilford, Connecticut and received a B.S. in Business from the University of Connecticut. In addition to his son, he is survived by three brothers, a sister-in-law, a niece and a nephew.
The family will hold a memorial service for Sullivan at St. Aloysius Church in New Canaan, Connecticut on Friday, December 3 at 11:00 am, followed by a local-area reception. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions of any amount to the New Canaan Food Pantry or Filling in the Blanks, both non-profit organizations that help food-insecure families in the area.
LiquidityBook will host a celebration of Sullivan’s life and career on Tuesday, December 7 from 5:00-7:00 pm in New York. For more details, check the firm’s website for updates.