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Nicoll bears down

Datek chairman Ed Nicoll got his Christmas wish last month.

Datek chairman Ed Nicoll got his Christmas wish last month, when a group of blue-chip investors, including private equity firm Bain Capital and venture capital outfit Silver Lake Partners, agreed to pay $700 million for a majority stake in his scrappy Internet brokerage firm. The money allows Datek to buy out some of its original partners, who had reportedly been the subject of regulatory inquiries related to the day-trading company that gave birth to the online broker. The funds will also be used to spin off Island ECN, Datek,s popular electronic trading system. Alas, the Grinch also paid a visit: Technology and Internet stocks, the hottest fare for online investors, continued to plunge through December. Nicoll says Datek will survive the bear market, but he's realistic about the future. "It,s going to make it more difficult for us and everyone else to grow," he says. "An enormous amount of wealth has been wiped out. That wealth can be seen as trades that will never happen."