> Former name: Qwikster
> Year changed: 2011
In 2011, having already announced a 60% price hike that infuriated customers, Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) introduced Qwikster. The plan, part of Netflix’s attempt to separate its streaming video service from its DVD mailing service, was an instant flop. Customers decried not just the higher costs but also inconvenience of two separate websites and having two bills. Although the price increase was permanent, the Qwikster decision barely lasted a few weeks. In a 2011 conference call, CEO Reed Hastings said of the Qwikster plan, “In hindsight, it’s hard to justify.” He also added, “Qwikster became the symbol of Netflix not listening.”
> Former name: Xe Services, Blackwater USA
> Year changed: 2011, 2009
The corporation once known as Blackwater actually has changed its name twice in the past four years. In September 2007, five Blackwater guards were involved in an incident that appeared to involve the killing of 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad. In February 2009, Blackwater changed its name to the much less sinister-sounding Xe Services. Just a few months later, two of its mercenaries fired on an unarmed vehicle and killed two Afghan civilians. In 2011, six months after the second gunman was convicted and sentenced to 37 months in prison for manslaughter, the company again changed its name in 2011, this time to Academi. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, the company’s CEO, Ted Wright, explained the name change was an attempt to appear more “boring” and to demonstrate its renewed focus on acting within the bounds of the law.
3. Ally Financial
> Former name: GMAC
> Year changed: 2010
In 2009, GMAC changed the name of its banking unit to Ally Bank. The decision was made to distance the company from its longtime association with government-owned General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) as well as its own bailout. The next year, GMAC, which in addition to an online retail bank also provides auto and mortgage lending services, changed the name of its entire business to Ally Financial. But under both names the company has struggled despite receiving $16.3 billion in TARP funding. Of this, nearly $10.5 billion remains outstanding, while the U.S. Treasury holds a 74% stake in the lender. Last year alone, the company failed a Federal Reserve stress test evaluating its ability to survive another financial crisis. In May 2012, its mortgage lender and servicer, Residential Capital, filed for bankruptcy.
> Former name: Andersen Consulting
> Year changed: 2001
In 2000, Accenture PLC (NYSE: ACC) was formed when Andersen Consulting disassociated itself from accounting firm Arthur Andersen after a high-profile three-year battle. The two firms were under the umbrella of Andersen Worldwide for many years, but Andersen Consulting moved to split off entirely from Andersen Worldwide when Arthur Andersen moved into the consulting business as well. Accenture noted that its name “connotes putting an accent or emphasis on the future, just as the firm focuses on helping its clients create their future.” The name change turned out to be a smart move. Arthur Andersen was embroiled in the Enron scandal in late 2001 and early 2002, tarnishing the Andersen name. Arthur Andersen was found guilty in 2002 of improper auditing of Enron and had to surrender its license to audit companies, putting the company out of business.