From the woes of Research In Motion to the headline-grabbing Mark Carney, it was an eventful year in business. Eric Reguly gives his (not-so-serious) account of the year that was.
Having failed to predict neither the 2008 financial crash nor the brutal recession that followed, an army of economists predict Greece’s exodus from the euro zone within the year. “Love you guys,” says hedgie Dan Loeb of Third Point, who duly loads up on Greek bonds, nailing a $500-million profit.
Costa Concordia captain Francesco Schettino proves once and for all that babe-watching is a dangerous sport. New Safety of Life at Sea regulations call for cruise ship captains to be fitted with blinders.
In a mass anti-austerity riot, 40 buildings in central Athens are gutted, leading to euphoric press release from Greek finance ministry: “The cost of rebuilding the city will boost our GDP,” it announces.
Media baron Rupert Murdoch reveals that his own phone was hacked by the News of the World. Entered into court evidence, the intercepted message, from Queen Elizabeth, said: “Crikey, Rupe. Pop by the shack for some shooters and we’ll sort this out.”
Maple Leaf Foods’s bright idea to use a solar-powered slaughterhouse to burnish its “sustainable development” credentials ends badly when the pigs emerge slightly tanned, not electrocuted.
David Cameron lifts U.K. shale-drilling moratorium when experimental drilling triggers earthquakes in Labour ridings.
UBS’s top investment bankers manipulate Libor down to reduce the lease rates on their yachts.
SNC-Lavalin CEO Pierre Duhaime resigns on suspicion that the Montreal company paid $130-million in bribes to secure the coveted Poulet Take-Away franchise rights in Libya.
Red Deer, Alta. shopper Irma Schlump is distressed to discover her newly purchased copy of Fifty Shades of Grey is not Stephen Harper’s official biography. “If I’d wanted a book on sex I’d have bought Silvio Berlusconi’s memoir, Hard Times,” she said.
Mark Carney fires his PR man, arguing that glowing stories on Page 1 of every newspaper on the planet are not enough. “Why no frescoed images of my handsome self on the ceilings and walls of every central bank?” he asks. “And would a statue here and there be too much to ask?”
Angela Merkel orders Greek finance minister to gut pensions and whack a few more hospitals to free up payment for four German subs sold to the Greek navy.
Facebook changes its stock ticker to FCKD when its shares go from $38 (U.S.) in the initial public offering to $18.
Auto-parts billionaire Frank Stronach, founder of Magna International, returns to his native Austria to launch his anti-euro party. Motto: One vote, one free-muffler coupon.
Research In Motion Inc. announces the launch of a keyboard-free smartphone. In response, Apple unveils the touchscreen-free iPhone. Not to be outdone, Nokia designs the Void, with neither keyboard nor touchscreen. “It’s just a lump of solid plastic,” says Nokia boss Stephen Elop. “But you sure can’t beat it for reliability and price.”
Harley-Davidson introduces new retro helmet line called the Harper.
Fiat-Chrysler unveils plans to launch its first Italian-American car and hires marketing firm to create catchy name for customers on both sides of the Atlantic. Rizzuto and Gambino make the short list.
Royal Bank economist Craig Wright, seeking a wider, younger audience, posts his reports on YouTube, set to Gangnam Style music, but finds doing the horse trot while singing “non-farm payrolls” is a tad silly.
With the euro crumbling around him, European Central Bank boss Mario Draghi promises to do “whatever it takes” to save the common currency. The ECB later delivers a clarification: “The ECB president was just joking. Arrivederci, Greece.”
In its quarterly update, Bombardier Inc. reveals that it will stop trying to flog the dodo C-Series jet and, with an eye to shareholder value, sells the fuselages of 148 existing orders to a pipeline company for a buck apiece.
Greek ministers convince hungry European central bankers that compromise is best. During late-night negotiating sessions, bankers agree to a five-year supply of baklava as collateral for bank loans instead of Greek sovereign bonds.
Angela Merkel, making her first visit to Greece as chancellor, slips away from her official duties as chief promoter of German-style austerity for a bit of retail therapy. “Stores practically empty – so nice shopping here,” she tweets.
Conrad Black takes umbrage at being called a “convicted fraudster” by the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman on his release from prison. Lord Black contracts former cellmate to smash the bourgeois prig’s face.
Ever wary of the bottom line, Starbucks reveals it has paid only £8.6-million in U.K. taxes in the last 13 years on sales of £3.1-billion. To celebrate, it launches a coffee called the Grand Cayman. Later that month, Starbucks becomes first multinational to transfer legal headquarters to the Moon to avoid earthly taxes.
Britain appoints ex-Goldman Sachs banker Mark Carney as next Bank of England governor. The ECB’s Mario Draghi, also a former Goldman Sachs banker, approves, as does ex-Goldman Sachs consultant Mario Monti, prime minister of Italy. “We’re doing God’s work,” Goldman Sachs boss Lloyd Blankfein says.
Catalonia’s separatist president Arturo Mas wins regional election and vows to hold a referendum on sovereignty – adios, Madrid – as long as Spain’s €5-billion bailout of clapped-out Catalonia remains intact. Impressed, Scotland and Quebec consider sovereignty votes too.
Silvio Berlusconi, 76, announces his engagement to 27-year-old Neapolitan Francesca Pascale. “Her younger sister wasn’t available,” he tells reporters at his year-end Bunga Bunga press conference.
Pope Benedict’s first official tweet goes to German chancellor Angela Merkel: “Italy finito. Suggest we recreate Papal States with me as leader, mein chef. Pax Germania.”
Queen Elizabeth tours the Bank of England gold vaults. “How many of these bricks would one get for Canada? One still owns Canada, doesn’t one?” she asks.
Stephen Harper declares that state-controlled companies are not welcome in the Alberta oil sands. He says this as he approves the Chinese state takeover of an oil sands company. To be consistent, he approves the sale of the Parliament buildings to a state company while announcing that no more state companies will be allowed to own the Parliament buildings.
Drawing on his Goldman Sachs background, Mark Carney tweaks his Bank of England bonus structure to include a tranched vanilla default swap with a forward linear inverse put on consensus British GDP rates, binomially discounted. Eager to please the Canadian whiz kid, the bank board endorses the new bonus before realizing the potential payout would allow him to buy all of Apple.
World does not end, as Mayans predict, disappointing short-sellers.