Special Report

Companies That Changed Their Names After Scandals

Source: Handout / Getty Images

1. Livestrong Foundation
> Former name: Lance Armstrong Foundation
> Year changed: 2012

The Lance Armstrong Foundation began in 1997 — in the wake of Lance Armstrong’s testicular cancer diagnosis — as a charity to raise money for cancer research. However, after years of speculation and investigations, it became indisputable in August 2012 that the seven time Tour de France champion had been illegally using performance-enhancing drugs throughout his professional career. In the fallout, Armstrong was stripped of his titles and banned from professional cycling. Armstrong’s charity foundation formally changed its name to the Livestrong Foundation in a rebranding effort.

2. American Outdoor Brands Corporation
> Former name: Smith & Wesson
> Year changed: 2017

Smith & Wesson Holding, the parent company of the Smith & Wesson firearm brand, changed its name to American Outdoor Brands on Jan. 1, 2017. The change was likely made primarily in response to the volatility of the firearms market.

Gun sales can fluctuate considerably in the United States due to current events, such as mass shootings, and political trends. By changing its name, the company aimed to expand its outdoor gear business to new markets that might have negative views of the firearm industry. Since the name change, however, the company’s stock has fallen by over 50%.

Source: JasonDoiy / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images

3. Netflix
> Former name: Qwikster
> Year changed: 2011

In 2011, having already announced a 60% price hike that infuriated customers, Netflix Inc. 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 the inconvenience of two separate websites and two separate bills. The Qwikster decision lasted just 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.”

Source: Official USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron J. Rock (Released)

4. Academi
> Former name: Xe Services, Blackwater Worldwide
> Year changed: 2009, 2011

The corporation once known as Blackwater has changed its name twice in the past four years. In September 2007, five Blackwater guards were involved in an incident that resulted in the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad. In February 2009, likely in part as a public relations move, Blackwater changed its name to Xe Services. Just a few months later, two of its mercenaries fired on a vehicle and killed two Afghan civilians.

In December 2011, six months after the second gunman was convicted and sentenced to 37 months in prison for manslaughter, the company again changed its name, 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.”

Source: TennesseePhotographer / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

5. Subway
> Former name: Pete’s Super Submarines
> Year changed: 1968

The fast-food sandwich chain now known as Subway was founded in 1965 — only back then it went by the name Pete’s Super Submarines, or, Pete’s Submarines, as it read in ads and on billboards. The shop was initially named after the man the restaurant’s founder, Fred DeLuca, had borrowed money from to get the operation off the ground. The relatively cumbersome name was short lived, however, as it was often misheard as “pizza submarine.” The chain changed its name to the now familiar Subway in 1968.

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