We’ve all seen company name changes like Cingular to AT&T and WWF to WWE. Sometimes these changes are funny, like how Radio Shack wants to become “The Shack.” Sometimes though, the company makes the change in an effort to distract customers from something really bad. Here’s a few examples of companies who want you to forget and one company that changed their name just in time to avoid scandal.
Blackwater to Xe
If you were hiding under a rock, you may have missed the whole scandal surrounding the government’s use of a private security company to help in the Iraq war. The company, Blackwater, found itself in some hot water after a September 2007 incident that left 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians dead. In February of 2009, the company tried to help escape their association with the incident by changing their name to Xe (pronounced zee). The name change has so far been completely ineffective, as the state department has decided to no longer work with the company and the company’s founder, Erik Prince, is now being accused of murder after two past employees swore that he eliminated people who were cooperating with a federal investigation of Blackwater. Source Image Via Markhillary [Flickr]
Philip Morris to Altria
Phillip Morris cigarettes may still be around, but the corporation (which owned Kraft foods at the time of their rebranding) is now called Altria. It seems no coincidence that the name change took place the same day, the company was cleared of charges related to a woman’s smoking-related death. Chairman Louis Camilleri claimed the name change “marks how far we have come and gives us a framework for how much further we aim to go… this is the right thing to do and the right time to do it.” Unfortunately for Camilleri, it seems most people saw the name change as a pathetic measure to escape the company’s bad reputation. After all, this was the same company whose president swore to congress in 1994, “I believe nicotine is not addictive.” Source #1, #2
ValuJet to AirTran
The last thing an airline wants to be associated with is a plane crash, but that’s just what happened after ValuJet Flight 592 crashed in the Everglades in 1996. All 110 passengers died and, due to the location of the crash, collecting the remains proved to be a notable challenge. When investigation reports came out, it was revealed that ValuJet’s maintenance contractor, SabreTech, was responsible for the dangerous cargo conditions that led to the accident. SabreTech faced both criminal and civil charges for the incident and subsequently went out of business in 1999. As for ValuJet, they never faced charges, despite their poor safety record at the time. Not surprisingly, when ValuJet merged with AirTran in 1997, they chose to give up their name in favor of the untarnished AirTran name. Interestingly, this year AirTran was found to be the safest of 25 airlines in research performed by the Daily Beast. Source
WorldCom to MCI
In the early 2000s, WorldCom was caught inflating their reported revenues in order to keep stock prices artificially high. The fraud ended up totaling around $11 billion, which sent the company into bankruptcy by 2002. Under the bankruptcy plan, the company had to pay out $750 million to the Securities Exchange Commission, who would then distribute the money to bilked investors. At the time, it was the largest bankruptcy of its type on record (this title was recently taken by the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy last year). In the year following the scandal, WorldCom acted swiftly to take attention away from the scandal by moving their headquarters from Clinton, Mississippi to Dulles, Virginia and by changing their name to MCI, a company they acquired in 1997. Source Image Via Mene Tekel [Flickr]
Andersen Consulting to Accenture
Accenture is the only company on the list who didn’t change their name after something bad happened –in fact, they were lucky enough to do it just before something happened. In 1988, Andersen Consulting broke its business relationship with the Andersen accounting group. Under their agreement, the company could keep their name, for a set period of time. In 2000, the company was required to change their name, so they ended up choosing Accenture, meaning an “accent on the future.” A whole lot of people critiqued the new name as a generic corporate word, and the company ended up spending $100 million on execution in what many people consider the worst rebranding attempt in corporate history. Funny enough though, the name ended up being better than the Andersen Consulting title, as the Andersen accounting group ended up going down in flames for their part in the Enron scandal. Source Image Via Mrkathika [Flickr] So Neatorama readers, now it’s your turn. What’s your least favorite corporate name change?