Today in the Fortune 500: Marriott spins off timeshare business, Chevron’s Ecuadorian lawsuit and Barnes & Noble poaches Amazon’s customers.

February 15, 2011, 3:24 PM UTC
Image by Greyhawk68 via Flickr

The Fortune 500 comes out just once a year, but the companies on it make headlines every day. Here then are today’s highlights of news and happenings coming from the biggest names in business.

By Shelley DuBois, reporter

THE WORLD’S LARGEST STANDALONE TIMESHARE BUSINESS is born as Marriott International (MAR) is detaching from its timeshare arm, which has lagged behind the post-recession recovery rate for the rest of the hotel. Marriott’s shareholders will still own the spin-off, which will include 33,000 rooms and 71 properties. [Wall Street Journal]

TROUBLE IN THE AMAZON for Chevron, which was accused by an Ecuadorian court of improperly disposing of 18 billion gallons of toxic materials that damaged nearby rivers and farmland. It happened over two decades ago under Texaco, before it merged with Chevron (CVX) in 2001. Chevron called the ruling by the Ecuadorian court “illegitimate and unenforceable.” [BBC]

TROUBLE FOR AMAZON? Barnes & Noble is looking to do deals with certain states that have had problems with’s sales tax policy. Some state governments have been trying to make online retailers collect sales tax. Amazon (AMZN) pulled affiliates from these states, and now Barnes & Noble says it’s happy to have their business. [Wall Street Jounral]

COMMODITY COSTS HIT CONSUMERS The prices of commodities such as copper, cotton, corn and others have been rising since last summer. Now, companies are starting to push the increasing cost on to consumers. Kraft (KFT) and Polo Ralph Lauren (RL) are some of the first in the Fortune 500 to raise the prices of their merchandise in correlation to commodity costs. [New York Times]

SCORE ONE FOR THE ROBOTS as IBM’s (IBM) supercomputer Watson tied with one of its two human competitors in the first round of the man vs. machine match-up on Jeopardy. The competition will last three days, with the final round going down on Wednesday. [Los Angeles Times]

FUEL AND SNOW HURT FEDEX so that it had to lower its earnings forecast for the third quarter ending on February 28. Not that FedEx (FDX) was alone in its fuel and weather woes. United Parcel Service (UPS) also took a hit, as did many airlines, of course, including Delta (DAL). [Wall Street Journal]