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

Toys 'R' Us, the Queen, Kathleen Taylor and more.

Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil has closed the doors on its first real flop. After spending less than six weeks onstage at the Beacon Theater in New York City, the circus company pulled the plug on its vaudeville-inspired show, Banana Shpeel, on June 27. After receiving disastrous reviews in a Chicago preview last year, the show?s Big Apple debut was delayed three times, from February to May, in hopes that some of the acts could be salvaged, while abusive clowns got the hook. But when Shpeel finally opened in Manhattan on May 19, it still failed to wow audiences. This was a disappointment for Cirque, which intended Shpeel to pave the way for a permanent show at the Radio City Music Hall in the spring. With 26 years of popular shows and 90 million viewers under its belt, Cirque is a stranger to bad press. Understandably, the company has no plans to diverge from its formula for success again anytime soon. Shpeel will get one last chance to find an audience that understands its strange combination of slapstick and acrobatics when it lands in Toronto for a month-long engagement this fall. There have been rumours of a North American tour, but so far, there are no firm plans.

? Micky Arison

The billionaire CEO of Carnival Corp. owns what?s suddenly the ultimate rich guy plaything: the Miami Heat basketball team, now featuring free agents LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. Merchandise and sponsorship revenues will spike, as will ticket sales and the franchise?s value, previously estimated at $364 million. Meanwhile, James?s former employer, Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, could see the value of his franchise halved without James as an asset.

? Toys ?R? Us

In a blow to its child-friendly image, an accounts payable manager at the British headquarters of Toys ?R? Us has been ordered to repay nearly $5.8 million he stole from the company in order to buy houses and cars for high-class prostitutes. The manager, married with two children, is already serving seven years in prison for the crimes, but will have another 10 years added to his sentence if he fails to pay up.

? Conrad Black

The embattled and unapologetic former media baron is one step closer to redemption. The U.S. Supreme Court found the legal concept used to convict Black on three of the four charges for which he was found guilty had been misapplied, and sent the case back to a lower court for review. Black has already applied for bail.

? Lilith

Nettwerk boss Terry McBride and singer Sarah McLachlan picked a bad time to revive their ?90s festival tour: with ticket sales down across the concert industry, demand for pricey Lilith ducats has been scarce, leading to artist pullouts, downsizing of venues and cancellations of more than a third of planned shows.

? Port Colborne

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice awarded some of the Ontario community?s residents $36 million to compensate for damage done to their property values by Inco (now Vale Inco), between 1918 and 1984, when the mining giant operated a nickel refinery in the community and contaminated local soils.

? Viacom

In throwing out Viacom?s $1-billion copyright lawsuit against YouTube, a New York district judge sent a strong message to the entertainment giant: police your own content. Judge Louis L. Stanton ruled YouTube isn?t responsible for removing copyright-protected materials from its site unless specifically asked to do so. Viacom called the decision ?fundamentally flawed,? and is already mounting an appeal.

? Canadian Press

A week after Sun Media dropped out of the Canadian Press co-operative to form its own news agency, CP reached a tentative deal to address financial woes created by legacy costs and declining membership by converting to a for-profit organization. Terms of the restructuring would place CP equally in the hands of its biggest remaining members: CTVglobemedia, Toronto Star parent Torstar and Gesca, which owns Montreal?s La Presse.

? Abercrombie

Eager shoppers were turned away from two clothing stores in New York City owned by Abercrombie & Fitch in July due to a bedbug infestation. One store has since reopened, but the company has not yet determined how the infestation started.

? Nicholas Sarkozy

French President Nicolas Sarkozy?s waning popularity has been served a severe blow by the butler of Liliane Bettencourt, heiress to the L?Oréal cosmetics fortune. Secret recordings made by the head servant in France?s richest house have led to allegations that Sarkozy received about $200,000 in illegal campaign contributions. Meanwhile, French Labour Minister Éric Woerth stands accused of soliciting a job for his wife from Bettencourt during his time as finance minister, and then ignoring reports that the heiress evaded taxes. Both men deny the unproven charges.

? Kathleen Taylor

After 21 years with Four Seasons, the 52-year-old Oshawa, Ont., native was named Isadore Sharpe?s successor as CEO of the company. As president and COO since 2007, she helped steer the hotelier through a brutal market for luxury brands. She now will preside over the company?s further expansion into emerging markets.

? Dell

The PC vendor?s reputation took a knock as The New York Times published details from documents recently released during an ongoing civil lawsuit. The Times claimed Dell sold millions of desktop computers between 2003 and 2005 knowing they contained faulty capacitors that would probably fail, and that its employees subsequently downplayed the problem to customers. Dell denied it knowingly shipped faulty machines, said the Times overstated the failure rate, and noted other major PC manufacturers used the same components and encountered similar problems.

? The Queen

Living on a fixed income in a fixer-upper property isn?t typically associated with being monarch of the British Empire. But in addition to royal travel cuts, U.K. austerity programs are expected to delay repairs to Queen Elizabeth II?s castles. The Queen?s staff costs about US$22 million per year, while the official budget is frozen at about US$12 million. Her Majesty has been dipping into a rainy-day fund that could run out by her Diamond Jubilee in 2012.