What’s the price of independence? For Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.-based Banyan Partners, it was $60 million. Most of the firms on our fourth annual list of RIA Leaders get calls from would-be suitors a couple of times a month, even weekly. They want a piece of equity, a slice of cash flow or everything. At Banyan, which debuted on the list last year at No. 25 — and at No. 3 on the list of the fastest-growing firms, after a surge of acquisitions — the call came from Boston Private Bank & Trust. And last summer’s ensuing deal, which amounted to $60 million plus additional sums over a two-year earn-out period, took Banyan off this year’s rankings.

The sale is indicative of the value investors see in this space where the most aggressive firms continue to grow rapidly. In 2009, there were 300 RIAs managing $1 billion or more in assets, according to Cerulli Advisor Metrics. Three years later, there were 500.

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