Goldman Sachs' Microsoft Analyst Rick Sherlund Leaves. Here's Why.

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Includes: GS, MSFT
by: Paul Kedrosky

There are lots of ways to read the news that Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) analyst Rick Sherlund, historically the "axe" on Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), is leaving the firm and looking to get into money management (read: hedge funds).

One straight up view is that he has more stamina than most, and it took him 100 quarters (25 years) to tire of the quarterly earnings grind. I'm a quick study, of course, and it only took me 11 quarters.

Another view is that this is more about Microsoft and about enterprise software than about Sherlund. Covering Microsoft can't be much fun anymore, what with it growing slowly, getting beaten up by Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), and embarrassing itself repeatedly over the Vista release.

The other take -- and this is my preferred one -- is that the altogether decent Sherlund (Disclosure: I spent a day with Sherlund a lifetime ago for Forbes magazine) got taken out by the changing analyst business. While the investment banking pressure is off, the new pressure is all-picking, all-the-time from hedge funds who pay Sherlund's salary. That has be a grind, and faced with stock-picking for rich kids in Greenwich, Connecticut, or stock-picking under your own shingle, leaving shouldn't have been that tough a decision for Sherlund. The only surprise is that it took him this long.