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Tech banker Robertson Stephens to close

FleetBoston Financial is shuttering Robertson Stephens, a San Francisco-based investment bank that took dozens of dot-com companies public during the tech boom.

FleetBoston Financial said Friday it is closing Robertson Stephens, a San Francisco-based investment bank that took dozens of dot-com companies public during the tech boom of the 1990s.

Fleet decided to close its Robertson Stephens banking unit after the companies failed to come to terms on an employee buyout.

The move follows earlier decisions by Fleet to exit several businesses. In April the company announced the sale of AFSA, its student-loan processing business.

"In recent weeks, Fleet and the Robertson Stephens management group were unable to structure an agreement for an employee buyout of the firm," Fleet Chief Financial Officer Eugene McQuade said in a statement. "As a result, we have decided a wind down is in the best interests of our shareholders."

Robertson Stephens was one of a handful of investment banks that specialized in technology deals. The company helped arrange stock offerings for companies such as Palm, Emachines and Webvan.

The closure eliminated 950 jobs, although some workers may be absorbed by Fleet elsewhere in its business, said spokeswoman Alison Gibbs.

Earlier this week Robertson Stephens had given notice to about half its employees that their jobs would be cut. The company expects to close the investment banking operation in 30 to 45 days, Gibbs said, while it will take somewhat longer to wind down the money-management arm as the company looks to transition clients to other Fleet units.

Fleet had been looking for a buyer for Robertson Stephens since April.

Robertson Stephens, which was founded in 1978, has changed hands several times. BankBoston, which later became FleetBoston, acquired Robertson Stephens in 1998 for $800 million. A year earlier BankAmerica had acquired the company for $540 million.