In January, a French court found Edgar Bronfman Jr. guilty of insider trading while he was a top executive with the Vivendi media conglomerate. The current chairman and CEO of Warner Music was fined $6.7 million and handed a 15-month suspended sentence. But despite the further blow to his reputation, Bronfman’s fine is still much less than the $12.8 million the French say he made from improper trades. As scion of one of Canada’s most prominent business families, Bronfman expanded the Montreal-based Seagram empire into the entertainment sector by selling a lucrative stake in DuPont to buy Polygram and Universal Pictures. He joined Vivendi in 2000 when the French company acquired Seagram in an all-stock deal. Under its former high-flying CEO, Jean-Marie Messier, Vivendi transformed from a water utility into a major media group, but it imploded and lost more than 80% of its market value after borrowing billions to make acquisitions. Messier was found guilty of misleading investors and misusing company funds. The convictions, which both men plan to appeal, came as a surprise since the prosecutor in France’s high-profile Vivendi trial recommended acquittals last year.
In January, the telecom company pushed back the launch of its foundering wireless network until early 2012. (At one point, executives hinted it would be running as early as 2009.) This followed the departure of wireless-division head Laurence Cooke after just six months on the job. The company has long been coy about its plans, which appear to be unravelling.
Though it’s been less than three years since Nelson Pelz, the former Snapple boss and biggest investor in the Wendy’s Arby’s Group, pushed to unite the two fast-food chains, they now seem set to part ways. With the burger brand handily outperforming its sibling, Arby’s is on the block so ownership can focus on maximizing sales across the 6,500-store Wendy’s franchise.
?Old Spice Guy
Isaiah Mustafa, the man you will never be or date, is back for a third campaign endorsing Procter & Gamble’s Old Spice body products for men. His first commercial last year generated tens of millions of online views, and the follow-up three-day YouTube campaign had 6.7 million views in 24 hours. The first of three new commercials started running this month, and it’s a toss-up as to who is the bigger winner: him or the viewers.
Citing “difficult market conditions,” the non-conventional mortgage lender has ceased offering new loans. Last year, the company’s origination of mortgages declined sharply and became considerably less profitable, contributing to a $17.6-million loss. Chairman Ivan Wahl said the company will now focus on managing its existing $1.6-billion portfolio of mortgages and other assets, while looking for unspecified new opportunities.
The New York hedge fund manager reportedly made US$5
billion for himself in 2010. The payout is believed to be the largest ever for a hedge fund manager. Paulson topped his own 2007 record of $4 billion, when he bet against the sub-prime mortgage market.
Rival firm Google set up a sting operation to show that Microsoft was copying Google’s search results to improve its own Bing search engine. A Microsoft executive denied the charges and dismissed Google’s investigation as a “spy-novelesque stunt.”
The company’s Android operating system became the world’s most popular smartphone OS in the last quarter of 2010, according to global research firm Canalys. Google knocked Nokia’s Symbian OS out of the top spot, capturing nearly 33% of the market compared to Nokia’s 31%.
The stock-market star lost a quarter of its value in January, largely due to the uprising in Egypt. Calgary-based TransGlobe led the S&P/TSX Capped Energy Index in 2010 with a 353% increase on the strength of its unexpectedly bountiful Arta discovery in Egypt. The company’s other producing wells are in Yemen, also a site of political unrest.
The city scored U2 for the final North American date of the band’s 3600 Tour, re-establishing the city as the entertainment capital of Atlantic Canada. Moncton previously hosted mega-acts such as the Rolling Stones and AC/DC, which brought in $24 million combined.
A federal-provincial environmental review panel approved its proposed Joslyn North open-pit mine, an oilsands project in northern Alberta, bringing it closer to receiving a permit. A coalition of environmental NGOs vigorously called the approval “nothing short of irresponsible,” claiming the project violates legal requirements. Joslyn is expected to produce 100,000 barrels of bitumen daily over 20 years.
The head of the Gap’s struggling North American division stepped down after a rocky few months on the job. Gap North America has not posted an annual increase in same-store sales in six years, and Hansen was also responsible for the company’s disastrous logo redesign last fall, which was scrapped after consumer outcry.
The world economy is still on life support, but thanks to bailouts and government stimulus programs, Wall Street has recovered nicely from the global financial crisis. Total pay at the 25 largest public banks and securities firms was a record US$135 billion last year, up 5.7% from 2009. In 2010, the U.S. financial sector posted a record US$417 billion in revenue in 2010.
All eyes are on Open Text Corp. after the Waterloo, Ont.-based business-software maker greatly outperformed analysts’ expectations. The company’s shares rose 12% on the Toronto Stock Exchange, boosted by $70.5 million in quarterly net income, and announced plans to acquire Maryland-based competitor Metastorm.