SAN FRANCISCO - A partial spinoff of Robertson Stephens Inc., the San Francisco-based investment bank owned by FleetBoston Financial Corp., could pull in as much as $2 billion in cash for Fleet and act as an important magnet for investment banking talent.

Fleet chairman Terrence Murray confirmed last week at an investor conference in New York that the company had been considering a partial spinoff of the wholly owned investment banking unit. The comment, which was made in response to a question, came after weeks of speculation about such a move.

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