It's increasingly looking like the employees of Robertson Stephens, the beleaguered investment banking arm of

FleetBoston Financial

(FBF)

, are going to be left to fend for themselves following a management buyout.

With no outside buyer interested in acquiring the investment bank, industry analysts say a management buyout is the most likely option, with a deal possibly announced sometime within the next week or two. If a deal can't be struck, FleetBoston could simply shut down the investment bank, although most analysts say that's unlikely.

The terms of the deal will probably involve management at Robertson Stephens giving up about $100 million in deferred compensation, says Fox-Pitt Kelton bank analyst Denis LaPlante. Fleet and Robertson Stephens must also come to an agreement over how to apportion any future liability stemming from a continuing investigation into the way Wall Street firms allocate shares of hot initial public offerings in the 1990s.

No matter what a final deal looks like, it will certainly be a lot less than the $800 million Fleet paid in 1998 to the buy the San Francisco-based investment bank, which specializes in underwriting technology offerings. LaPlante says Fleet will likely take a charge against earnings in the second quarter once the deal is completed. UBS Warburg bank analyst Diane Glossman, in a Tuesday research note to clients, estimates the bank will take a charge of approximately 16 cents a share.

At one time, when technology stocks were the rage, Robertson Stephens was one of the hottest boutique investment banks. But now, with tech stocks in prolonged doldrums, it's gone ice cold. Today, Robertson Stephens employs 950 employees, some 40% fewer than it did at the height of the market in 2000. Industry analysts say more layoffs are expected at the investment bank after the deal is announced.