It’s Not Just Altaba. Here Are the 7 Worst Company Name Changes
Yahoo announced Monday that following the sale of its core business to Verizon Communications, the leftover assets would placed under a holding company termed “Altaba”—a name that sounded more like infantile babble than the remnants of a once-promising internet giant.
That’s according to industrious Twitter users, who quickly swooped in following the announcement to take jabs at the company that will include Yahoo’s 15% stake in Alibaba and its 35.5% stake in Yahoo Japan.
“Ask your Doctor If Altaba is right for you,” one user quipped.
“‘Altaba’ is Latin for ‘We should have taken Microsoft’s $45 billion offer in 2008’,” another wrote.
In light of Yahoo’s decision to name its remaining holdings “Altaba,”—apparently a portmanteau of “alternative” and “Alibaba”—Fortune decided to revisit other companies that launched a new name—and fell short.
We won’t be tackling corporate rebranding projects that fell flat. That’s a whole different monster.
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Tribune Publishing truncates its name to tronc in 2016
Yes, that is not a typo. Just half-a-year ago, newspaper chain Tribune Publishing decided to rename its self “tronc Inc.,” which stands for “tribune online content” while it was trying to fend off a hostile takeover from Gannett. The rebranding was a kind of pledge of sorts, that Tribune would catch up with current technology and start using machine learning and artificial intelligence in its “content monetization engine.”
Google goes under parent company named Alphabet in 2015
In the grand scheme of things, “Alphabet” is a fairly harmless moniker given its lack of onomatopoeia. But to some critics, the decision to use a new name for Google’s umbrella company seemed a bit arbitrary. Others joked that the name was childlike for a tech company with a market cap that was, at the time, in excess of $300 billion. Now it’s over $560 billion.
Gannett spins off its digital media business, calls it TEGNA in 2015
When the publisher of USA Today decided to spin off its digital media business, it made a new name for itself by rearranging a few letters in its name, and capitalizing the whole thing. Then-Gannett CEO Garcia Mortore said that the name was “a nod to the more than 100 year-old history of Gannett.” Many Twitter users failed to find the dignity associated with a century-long heritage in the new name.
Netflix renames its DVD-by-mail service Qwikster in 2011
In September 2011, CEO Reed Hastings announced it would split into two separate companies: a DVD-by-mail service, and a streaming service. The former would be renamed “Qwikster” to reflect the company’s speedy delivery. In doing so however, the company foresook more than a decade’s worth of branding, and quickly enraged consumers with price increases associated with the split. Just months after the announcement, the CEO was forced to backpedal.
From Blackwater to Xe Services in 2009, then to Academi in 2011
By 2009, Blackwater’s own name had become toxic to the military contractor. Five of its employees were indicted in 2007 in relation to the deaths of 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians—forcing the company to change its name to Xe Services in a bid to distance itself from the controversy. In 2010, the company was sold to a group of private investor, and it’s name was later changed to Academi. Then-CEO Ted Wright told the Wall Street Journal he was trying to make the company more “boring.”
Philip Morris tries to shed its unhealthy image by renaming itself Altria in 2003
Once upon a time, tobacco’s links to cancer weren’t well-known, and Philip Morris was a perfectly viable name for a company. Then 1994 happened, and the public turned against big tobacco amid revelations that the companies’ executives were exposed to research that suggested nicotine was addictive and cigarettes could cause lung cancer. By 2003, Philip Morris wanted its consumers to know that it was “more than a tobacco company.” It adopted the name Altria, and paired it with a mosaic logo that made no reference to its tobacco-laden roots.