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Robertson Stephens

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Title: Robertson Stephens  
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Robertson Stephens

Robertson Stephens LLC
Industry Wealth Management
Founded Feb 2013 (reopened)
Founder Joe Piazza
Headquarters San Francisco, California, United States
Products Financial Services
Subsidiaries Robertson Stephens Advisors LLC
Robertson Stephens Partners LLC
Robertson Stephens Securities LLC

Robertson Stephens (sometimes referred to as "Robbie Stephens") was a San Francisco-based boutique investment bank that focused primarily on technology companies. The firm was closed by its parent company, FleetBoston in July 2002 as a result of the collapse of the technology sector and the end of the dot-com bubble.[1][2]

Robertson Stephens was among the most active investment banks in the technology sector at the height of the internet boom, underwriting 74 IPOs with a total value of $5.5 billion between 1999 and 2000.[1] Robertson was the lead underwriter of some of the most prominent firms of the 1990s stock boom, including Switchboard, Mapquest, E-Trade and Vericity, as well as retailer Bebe. Robertson had approximately 950 employees at the time it was shuttered by FleetBoston.

In February 2013, about 10 years after closing its doors, Robertson Stephens reopened as a wealth management advisory firm at the original firm's same location in San Francisco. The new Robbie Stephens was founded by Joseph Piazza, who founded and built the wealth management business unit at the old Robertson Stephens to $40 billion in AUM and 220 employees. Joe Piazza is Chairman and CEO of Robertson Stephens LLC, which has three operating subsidiaries; Robertson Stephens Advisors LLC, Robertson Stephens Partners LLC, and Robertson Stephens Securities LLC.[3]


The firm's earliest predecessor, Robertson, Colman & Siebel was founded in 1969 by Sandy Robertson, Robert Colman and Ken Siebel.[4] In 1971, Thomas Weisel, who would later found Montgomery Securities and Thomas Weisel Partners, joined the firm, which was renamed Robertson, Colman, Siebel & Weisel.

In 1978, Thom Weisel, the junior partner pulled off what was described later as a "mutiny" of the firm. Weisel became chief executive of the firm and prompted the departure of Robertson and Colman. Weisel changed the name of the original firm to Montgomery Securities.

Robertson left the firm in October 1978 and founded Robertson, Colman, Stephens & Woodman along with partners Robert Colman and Dean Woodman[5] and many of the firm's leading bankers.[6] The name of the firm was shorted to Robertson Stephens & Company in 1989. Robertson Stephens and Montgomery Securities would remain fierce rivals for two decades.

Changing ownership (1997–1999)

Robertson Stephens was founded as an independent partnership and remained independent until the late 1990s, when its ownership changed hands several times. In June 1997, the partners sold Robertson Stephens to BankAmerica for $540 million. The combined firm would operate as BancAmerica Robertson Stephens for approximately 11 months.

In 1998, BankAmerica agreed to a merger with NationsBank, which was by this time the parent company of rival technology investment banking boutique Montgomery Securities. The significant internal tensions between Montgomery and Robertson Stephens led to the sale of Robertson Stephens to BankBoston in 1998 for $800 million. Shortly after the sale of the firm to BankBoston, Sandy Robertson left the firm and was succeeded by COO Bob Emery.

Robertson Stephens would change hands again the following year when Fleet Financial merged with BankBoston in 1999 to form FleetBoston Financial.

Closing Robertson Stephens (2002)

Although its business was squeezed by major Wall Street banks such as Credit Suisse First Boston, and its leading technology banker Frank Quattrone, which swept in and grabbed the most lucrative IPOs, Robertson Stephens was among the most active investment banks in the technology sector at the height of the internet boom. Robertson Stephens completed the underwriting 74 IPOs with a total value of $5.5 billion between 1999 and 2000.[1]

However, by 2001, Robertson was suffering from the downturn following the collapse of the dot-com bubble due to a lack of interest in new technology IPOs and a lack of companies well suited for IPO. Robertson Stephens lost $61 million of net income for Fleet during 2001 for its parent bank, FleetBoston Financial, compared with a $216 million profit in 2000. Fleet put Robertson Stephens up for sale in April 2002 and struggled to come to terms with a buyer. Bear Stearns and Jefferies & Co. were among the most active in discussions. Senior executives of Robertson Stephens also looked at a potential management buyout.

Ultimately, Fleet failed to find a buyer and made the determination to pursue a liquidation of Robertson Stephens in July 2002. Robertson Stephens was among the "Four Horsemen" firms devoted to technology deals in Silicon Valley along with Hambrecht & Quist, Montgomery Securities and Alex Brown. At the time of its closing in 2002, Robertson Stephens was the only one of the Four Horsemen remaining as an independent, operating firm in the aftermath of the bursting of the dot-com bubble.[7]

Reopening Robertson Stephens (2013–Present)

Robertson Stephens reopened its doors in February 2013 at the original firm's location at 555 California Street, San Francisco, California. Robertson Stephens LLC is the parent company for two operating subsidiaries; Robertson Stephens Advisors LLC, a SEC Registered Investment Advisor, and Robertson Stephens Securities LLC, a securities broker-dealer and member FINRA/SIPC.

The core business of the new Robertson Stephens is wealth management advisory. Like its predecessor, it plans to have offices throughout the US and Europe.[8]


  1. ^ a b c Robertson Stephens to close
  2. ^ THE MARKETS: Market Place; At Robertson Stephens, a Sale and Empty Desks - New York Times
  3. ^ Weinberger,Betsy. "The New Robertson Stephens Launches As A High Net Worth Wealth Management Firm." PR Newswire: A UBM pic Company. PR Newswire Association LLC., 12 Mar. 2013. Web. 11 Sept 2014.
  4. ^ Kenneth F. Siebel, a former professional basketball player, is a cousin of Thomas Siebel founder of Siebel Systems. He resigned his partnership in 1977 to devote himself fulltime to investment management and formed the investment advisory firm of Wood Island Associates where he served as chairman and chief executive officer. In 1998, U.S. Trust Company acquired Wood Island Associates.
  5. ^ Woodman worked in the investment banking division of Merrill Lynch for 23 years where he spent 16 years as director of West Coast corporate finance until 1978. Woodman left Robertson, Colman, Stephens and Woodman in 1982 to form Woodman Kirkpatrick & Gilbreath and would later work for Hambrecht & Quist and later Furman Selz
  6. ^ Net Value Holdings Inc. Names Paul H. Stephens to Board of Advisors
  7. ^ Deal Gives Trading Firm a Technology Foothold. New York Times, December 19, 2003
  8. ^ Piazza, Joe "CEO". Interviewed by Adam Cancryn. SNLFinancial. SNLFinancial, March 18, 2013. Web. 8 Aug 2014
  • More losses at Robertson Stephens. San Francisco Chronicle.
  • Deal Will Marry Longtime Rivals. Robertson Stephens, Montgomery together again. San Francisco Chronicle. April 14, 1998
  • BankAmerica to Buy Robertson, Stephens Investment Company. New York Times, June 9, 1997
  • Robertson Stephens Profile
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