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Henry Blodget Leaves Merrill Lynch

Henry Blodget, Merrill Lynch's star Internet analyst, confirmed Wednesday that he accepted a buyout offer from the firm, according to a New York Times report. Merrill Lynch had made the offer to about 50,000 of its employees this month.

Blodget's severance package is estimated to be worth about $2 million, the Times said.

The 35-year-old analyst became an overnight sensation on Wall Street in 1998, when he correctly predicted the share price of Amazon.com would rocket to $400 off its then-price of $240 a share. It was not long before his fame spread among investors, and in 2000 he was the highest-ranked analyst in an annual survey by Institutional Investor magazine.

He was oft-quoted by financial reporters, and appeared even more regularly on CNBC, recommending nearly every one of the more than 20 stocks he covered, from IPET Holdings' Pets.com, to eToys.

But as the tech bubble burst, one after another of the companies Blodget had pushed tanked. His portfolio shrank to only a few stocks as companies either went out of business or were delisted when their stocks fell below $1 on the market.

Blodget said he always advised clients that tech stocks were risky but that did not stop the grumbles. Merrill Lynch settled a complaint by one customer, who had bought shares of online content provider InfoSpace on Blodget's recommendation, for an undisclosed amount earlier this year. Although it settled, Merrill continued to dispute the complaint and continued to support Blodget, The Times reported.

The complaint was one that has been heard all around Wall Street in past months and is by no means confined to Merrill Lynch. Investors and regulators have questioned whether firms crossed the line when analysts were pushing stocks of companies with which their employers were trying to do business.

In the wake of the bubble, many firms, Merrill among them, have announced policy changes intended to reassure investors that their analysts' opinions are based on objective research. Analysts are now required to disclose their own holdings and may not acquire shares in the companies they follow. The firms also said they would disclose investment relationships with the companies their analysts follow.

According to The Times, Blodget plans to spend the next several months writing a book about the Internet stock bubble for Random House, and will then seek a job at a hedge fund or money management firm.