Strategy

Winners & Losers: Who's up, who's down

Maple Leaf Foods, Mark Twain, Holy Crap and more.

Loser: Maple Leaf Foods
Food

After months of waffling, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan sold its entire 25% stake in Maple Leaf Foods. While Teachers’ first said it would keep some stock in the company, it later confirmed plans to offload all 34.5 million of its remaining shares at a steep 17% discount of $10.50 each. By the following day, the share price had dropped by more than 10%. The conflict between Maple Leaf and Teachers’ began at the end of June, when a long-term shareholder agreement between Teachers’ and McCain Capital Corp. finally expired. At the time, Maple Leaf’s board said it would pursue a new shareholder plan with a poison-pill clause that would come into effect if 20% of shares were sold to another investor. Teachers’ was outraged, and in August it sold a 10% stake to West Face Capital, a hedge fund known for tightening up the operating costs of companies. This second sale brings a 15-year relationship to an end, as both groups have owned a controlling stake in Maple Leaf since the pension plan backed the McCain’s takeover bid for the company in 1995. The past few years have been hard on the company, and shares are worth nearly half what they were in April 2005.

?Vancouverites
Real estate

The City of Vancouver has moved to take over the Olympic Village — now a struggling luxury condo project — and place it in receivership in hopes of recouping some of the $740 million in taxpayer funds invested in the project. The receiver, Ernst & Young, will now try to unload the 480 units that remain unsold in the development, but the deal provides no guarantee that Vancouver’s taxpayers will recover their outlay.

?Danny Williams
Politics

“Orson Welles once said that if you want a happy ending, you need to know when to end your story,” offered the 9th premier of Newfoundland and Labrador as he announced his resignation. Williams rode an oil boom and a pugnacious attitude to the highest approval ratings of any leader in the country, and now exits stage left with barely a dent in them.

?Morgan Stanley
Finance

Reports circulated one of the firm’s traders recently tried to hire a dwarf for a bachelor party in Miami, asking the dwarf to meet him at the airport in a Men in Black-style suit. The trader wanted to handcuff the little person to the bachelor. The New York Times reported the individual was recently fired.

?Windmills
Energy

With a new initiative called Smart From the Start, the White House has moved to champion wind turbines by identifying potential wind-farm sites along the Atlantic coast. Since a showpiece project in Massachusetts has been plagued by delays, the government now hopes to speed the construction of clean-energy tech by pre-regulating the sites before developers lease them.

?Katherine Hooker
Fashion

The U.K. fashion designer plans to expand her operations into the U.S., and her timing is perfect — one of her highest-profile clients is Kate Middleton, Prince William’s bride-to-be. With Kate a walking billboard for the designer’s American-prep-meets-classic-English style, Hooker will be hoping for a sales bump like the one J. Crew enjoyed from Michelle Obama’s patronage.

?Rogers
Communications

The country’s new wireless companies howled in protest when Rogers introduced Chatr, calling it a “flanker” brand designed to strangle their growth. Now the federal competition bureau has begun legal proceedings against Rogers (owner of Canadian Business) over alleged misleading advertising that claimed the startup services suffered more dropped calls. The bureau is seeking a $10-million penalty, but Rogers’s stock price hasn’t flinched.

?Facebook
Technology

Forget minor privacy quibbles — Facebook is the path to total web domination. Earlier this year, the social networking site reached 500 million members, and now, according to stats provided by comScore, accounts for 25% of all page views of its users. Not only that, but within the past year, U.S. traffic to Facebook has grown by 55%. Stats for October 2010 show the site had 151.13 million unique users, which puts the site just behind Google’s 173.3 million.

?Oracle
Technology

Software giant SAP was fined US$1.3 billion after it admitted that a subsidiary wrongfully downloaded software and documents from competitor Oracle. Making SAP pay has been a goal for Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, and the record fine marks a personal victory for him.

?Ireland
Finance

Ireland is looking to the EU for a US$114-billion bailout to fix its debt crisis. To try and secure the deal, the government announced an austerity plan to raise taxes and slash US$20 billion in public spending — including cuts to social welfare and public jobs, and a lowering of the minimum wage. The debt is mostly blamed on Irish banks, which the government bailed out after the housing market collapsed in 2008.

?Holy Crap
Food

A Canadian-made breakfast cereal, the coyly named Holy Crap, saw its sales skyrocket after an appearance on CBC’s Dragons’ Den. Orders for the cereal increased from 10 a day to 10 every minute. The product, made in Sechelt, B.C., is so popular, the local post office has hired two new employees to handle the additional shipping.

?Stephen Duckett
Politics

The chief executive of Alberta Health Services, has been fired after brandishing a cookie at journalists. The incident occurred after a meeting to discuss emergency-room wait times. When asked about emergency-care issues by reporters, Duckett would only reply “I’m eating my cookie.” After the incident, Duckett apologized for his behaviour.

?Mark Twain
Publishing

Twain died in 1910. His autobiography hit shelves last month. The posthumously published work had an initial print run of 7,500, but the novelist is proving to be as popular as ever. The work has already landed on several bestseller lists, and the publishers have gone back to press six times, for a print run now totalling 275,000 copies.

?Kik Interactive
Technology

Research In Motion has blocked the Waterloo, Ont.-based company’s instant messaging app from its BlackBerry devices. RIM said it blocked Kik, which had become an overnight success and competes with BlackBerry Messenger, because the company “breached contractual obligations.” Kik said it has already addressed RIM’s concerns, and is appealing to users to get the app reinstated.