John Nuveen & Co. is the leading contender to buy the asset management unit that BankAmerica Corp. has put on the block, an industry source said.

Robertson Stephens Investment Management, which manages $4 billion of assets, including $2.4 billion of mutual funds, has been on the market since June. It is expected to fetch $150 million.

BankAmerica Corp. would only confirm that it is discussing a possible sale of the money management unit with "several parties." The San Francisco-based banking company said yesterday that no target date has been set for a sale.

A spokeswoman for Nuveen declined to comment. Nuveen, which is mainly a fixed-income firm, has been shopping for equity capabilities. It manages $51 billion of assets.

BankAmerica bought Robertson Stephens last October and sold its investment banking component to BankBoston Corp. earlier this month. The flurry of activity comes as BankAmerica prepares to wrap up its merger with NationsBank Corp. by the end of September.

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