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

U2, Baby Buggys, Mega Brands, Intel, GM and more.

? Music fans

Irish supergroup U2 celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall by staging a free 30-minute, six-song concert at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate on Nov. 5. The band gave away 10,000 tickets to the show online, and authorities said as many as 100,000 fans were expected to show up. However, to ensure the safety of attendees, as well as local residents and businesses, Berlin police blocked the view of those without tickets by erecting a two-metre-high…iron curtain. Several fans were seen trying to tear through the tarp covering the metal barricade, apparently in an attempt to earn their musical freedom. Meanwhile, a continent away, ’80s British alternative pop group Echo and the Bunnymen were feeling the hammer of a different authority. The band cancelled its U.S. tour 10 days before it began, citing an IRS rule that foreign acts must pay a fee if they tour the U.S. more than once in 30 days (the band had played a show in New York a few weeks earlier). A statement from the group called the IRS’s demands “unreasonable,” and said it would return in April 2010.

? Skype founders

A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit filed by Skype founders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, clearing the way for eBay to sell two-thirds of the Internet phone company to a group of private investors, including the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. The founders sold Skype to eBay in 2005 and attempted to buy it back earlier this year, but were outmanoeuvred by other investors. They recently dropped all litigation in return for a 14% stake in Skype and two seats on its board.

? Maclaren Buggys
Baby Gear

Maclaren, manufacturer of the original Baby Buggy, was forced to recall one million single and double umbrella-style strollers after 12 reports of hinge mechanisms amputating children’s fingers. All told, the recall includes nine models covering every Maclaren stroller sold in the U.S. since 1999.

? Northern airlines

First Air and Canadian North, two aboriginal-owned airlines that dominate northern territories, say Air Canada’s plan to introduce service between Iqaluit and Ottawa will flood the market and “strip the land.” They argue Air Canada is “cherry-picking” the most profitable routes but not hiring local workers or fostering northern business the way local carriers do. After a similar launch of Air Canada’s route to Yellowknife in September, Canadian North had to lay off workers and cut service.

? ‘Beautiful’ people
Dating, a new dating website that allows applicants to join only if existing members find them attractive, added 360,000 members since going global on Oct. 26. Most successful were Norwegian women, who had a 76% acceptance rate. The site also rejected 1.8-million “ugly” people, with applicants from Britain and Germany proving the least desirable.

? iPhone users

Apple’s iPhone has its first worm. The “Ikee” virus targets user-hacked devices, and changes the phone’s wallpaper to a picture of ’80s pop star Rick Astley, with the words “Ikee is never going to give you up.” The virus was created by 21-year-old Australian Ashley Towns, who says the Ikee was just supposed to be a funny warning to consumers that hacking their iPhone removes its security features. Towns has since received ceaseless phone calls and death threats.

? Disney

China approved plans for the Walt Disney Co. to build one of its massive theme parks in Shanghai, the company’s first on the mainland. At a cost of more than US$3.5 billion, the development marks one of the largest foreign investments ever in China, and comes after Disney spent more than a decade courting the Chinese government.

? Electronic Arts
Video games

The U.S.-owned video-game maker recently announced 1,500 layoffs, or 17% of its global workforce, including some at its offices in Burnaby, B.C. The cuts followed a 12% drop in revenue over the summer, driven by the recession and a move toward Internet-based gaming.

? Torstar

The Toronto Star will undergo what is likely the largest restructuring in the newspaper’s 118-year history. It will offer buyouts to employees across the company, and plans to outsource as many 100 union editing jobs. Parent company Torstar turned in lacklustre third-quarter results, prompting Scotia Capital to downgrade its stock to Underperform.

? Intel

New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo filed an antitrust lawsuit again Intel Corp., alleging the chip maker used threats and collusion to dominate the market, and paid billions in kickbacks to computer manufacturers. Intel also settled a private antitrust lawsuit just days after Cuomo sued. The company agreed to pay rival chip maker AdvancedMicro Devices US$1.25 billion to end the dispute over its controversial sales tactics.

? Mega Brands

The Montreal-based toy maker won a $17.2-million cash settlement in a lawsuit related to a defective product that killed a toddler in 2005 and injured 27 others. The Magnetix line featured small magnets that proved easy to dislodge and ingest, a flaw that Mega Brands alleged the toys’ creators, Rose Art Industries (which Mega Brands bought in 2005), failed to disclose. The Rose Art settlement enabled Mega Brands to announce a $72-million profit for its third quarter.

? Stan Grmovsek

The self-employed consultant from Woodbridge, Ont., pleaded guilty on Oct. 27 to insider trading, fraud, and money laundering. Later that day, he also pleaded guilty to similar charges in a U.S. federal court. Grmovsek admitted to using offshore accounts to make illegal trades based on private information his college friend Gil Cornblum obtained from corporate clients at the various law firms where he worked. The two men carried out this scheme for 14 years, and made an estimated $10 million in profits.

? GM workers

Months after emerging from bankruptcy protection, General Motors is making a $90-million investment in Canadian plant capacity to meet demand for the 2010 Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain. The move, which will retool a joint venture with Japan’s Suzuki in Ingersoll, Ont., will lead to the recall of about 150 employees. In August, GM added a third shift at the plant, which restored 300 jobs.