Seven Companies Forced to Change Their Names

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5. Altria
> Former name: Philip Morris
> Year changed: 2003

Cigarette giant Philip Morris changed its name to Altria Group Inc. (NYSE: MO) in 2003 on the same day that the company was cleared of responsibility in a smoking-related wrongful death case. However, the move had been in the works since 2001. Philip Morris claimed that the name change would seek to emphasize that the company sells a wide array of products in addition to the famous tobacco brand, but the move was considered a way for Philip Morris to disassociate itself from its most controversial product. An anti-tobacco group, Intact, called the plan “a PR maneuver meant to distance the corporation’s image from its deadly business practices.” The cigarette units, Philip Morris International and Philip Morris USA, kept their old names, as did Kraft Foods, then another unit of Altria.

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6. World Wrestling Entertainment
> Former name: World Wrestling Federation
> Year changed: 2001

The popular entertainment company once known as the World Wrestling Federation, or WWF, had to change its name for a much different reason — trademark violation. Very few multimillion dollar companies come across such a problem. But World Wildlife Fund for Nature, a global conservation organization founded in 1961 that carries the initials WWF, sued the entertainment group in 2000 and won. A british judge ruled in 1994 that the initials belonged solely to the conservation group, but the organization now known as the WWE, or World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. (NYSE: WWE), continued to use the initials through 2002. That is when the United Kingdom’s Court of Appeals upheld a 2001 ruling that the corporation had been in violation of the 1994 settlement. The WWF changed its name and abbreviation, and continues to be extremely popular as the WWE.

7. AirTran Airways
> Former name: ValuJet Airlines
> Year changed: 1996

On May 11, 1996, ValuJet Flight 592 crashed in the Florida Everglades, with no survivors among the 110 passengers and crew. Following the crash, despite initially ruling the airline safe, the FAA grounded ValuJet Airlines flights in June 1996 for three months. The FAA alleged ValuJet knowingly flew planes that were potentially unsafe. Although it later returned to offering inexpensive flights, in 1997 ValuJet acquired AirTran Airways, taking the smaller airline’s name. While ValuJet had one of the oldest fleets in the United States, the new company claims it eventually operated “the youngest all Boeing fleet in the nation.”

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