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

Twitter, Air Canada, a very big banana and more.

? Mark Hurd

Shares fell 10% as Mark Hurd, CEO of Hewlett-Packard, the world’s biggest technology company, announced his resignation following a sexual harassment probe. While HP said the 53-year-old married Hurd didn’t violate its sexual harassment policy, it did say a “close personal relationship” wasn’t up to its standards of business conduct and that he “demonstrated a profound lack of judgment.” Hurd was found to have made payments to a contractor he did not do business with, reported to be Jodie Fisher, a soft-core adult-film star turned marketing expert who worked at HP events between 2007 and 2009. With this scandal, Hurd flushed away his reputation as the esteemed Silicon Valley executive who resuscitated HP after the highly publicized resignation of former CEO Carly Fiorina and then-chairman Patty Dunn who, it was revealed in 2006, hired a team of security experts to spy on board members in an attempt to staunch an information leak. Until HP can find a leader who plays a clean game, CFO Cathie Lesjak will take the lead. To go away, Hurd will receive a severance payment of $12.5 million, but once stock options and other benefits are included, that figure could reach $40 million.

? Twitter

MTV’s famous VJ positions might soon be a thing of the past. The pop culture network is on the hunt for its first ever TJ, or “Twitter jockey.” The position comes with red-carpet perks and a US$100,000 salary. In another coup for the social-media site, singer Kayne West, who previously had raised a fuss about the useless nature of Twitter, is now eating his words — 140 characters at a time. West recently joined the site and gave a live performance at Twitter’s head office. West has approximately half a million followers and is following exactly zero people.

? The U.S. indebted

U.S. personal bankruptcies are on the rise again, with 137,698 Americans going bust in July (up 9% from June). Overall, bankruptcies are up 13% in the U.S. this year from 2008 — bad news for the millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet in a jobless recovery. The silver lining? Bankruptcies are wiping millions in debt off consumer balance sheets, hopefully setting the stage for a quicker recovery.

? Enbridge

On July 26, a 30-inch Enbridge pipeline burst underwater and released three million litres of crude oil into a creek that leads to Michigan’s Kalamazoo River. While that’s a drop in BP’s 800-million-litre bucket, it’s enough to awaken environmentalists and remind the public that the oilsands aren’t a foolproof solution to troublesome offshore drilling. The Enbridge system is the largest transporter of growing oil production from western Canada to the U.S., and the oil it carries accounts for 12% of total American oil imports.

? Molson Coors

The beer maker saw a 27% hike in net income last quarter, thanks in part to increased Canadian demand. The weak economy meant volume sales fell 2.4% in the United States and 0.7% worldwide, but Canadian sales were up by 2.6%. The company reported increased popularity for its Rickards and Creemore brands, in keeping with an increased demand for craft brews across the marketplace.

? E-mail

The skyrocketing popularity of social networks means people just don’t e-mail like they used to, according to Nielsen. The total number of minutes Americans spent on social-networking sites in June jumped 43% compared with the previous year, while time on e-mail fell by 28%. People now spend just 8.3% of their Internet time using e-mail, making it the third-most-popular activity behind social networks (22.7%) and games (10.2%).

? Google Android

In May, Google was activating 100,000 Android smartphones a day. By July, that number had grown to more than 200,000. This secures Google’s spot as a prominent player in the smartphone wars, and that’s more than enough to ease the sting of Google Wave’s failure. The platform was killed by Google this week, just 15 months after it’s much-publicized launch.

? Windsor

Ford Motor Co. announced plans to eliminate a shift at its Windsor engine plant, costing Canada’s crumbling former auto capital another 400 jobs as of Nov. 1. The announcement came just one day after General Motors shuttered its Windsor transmission plant, which had 500 remaining employees. GM once employed more than 7,000 in the Rose City.

? Conrad Black

After weathering nearly a third of his 6??-year sentence on fraud and obstruction of justice convictions in a Florida prison, the former press baron finally got bail. This arrives after the U.S. Supreme Court nullified a legal theory on which his convictions partly rested. The matter has been remanded to the U.S. Court of Appeal in Chicago, which must decide whether to set aside the convictions. That court rebuked Black the last time his representatives appeared before it. But given the higher court’s ruling, some believe Black’s road to freedom is now secure.

? Melita

The 1,051 residents of this southwestern Manitoba farming community last week unveiled a 30-foot-tall roadside statue of a banana, believed to be the world’s largest. Commemorating the town’s place in Manitoba’s temperate “Banana Belt,” Melita hopes the privately funded statue will draw tourist dollars. No longer just a hot spot for grasslands bird watching, Melita now brands itself “a town with a-peel.”

? Philip Morris

The international tobacco company is being accused of exploiting migrant workers and supporting child labour at tobacco farms in Kazakhstan. International NGO Human Rights Watch issued a 115-page report documenting the confiscation of worker’s passports, irregular and unfair wages, and children as young as 10 being put to work in the fields. When approached with the report, Philip Morris said it would take steps to remedy the situation.