6. Ally Financial
> Former name: GMAC Bank
> Year changed: 2010
In 2008, in the midst of the financial crisis and the bailing out of a number of major financial institutions, the U.S. government bailed out the American auto industry to the tune of over $80 billion. As part of this lifeline, the government purchased billions of dollars in shares of GMAC, which began as the financing arm of General Motors and was partially owned by the automaker. It also injected money into GM directly.
In 2010, GMAC changed the name of its banking unit to Ally Financial. The decision appears to have been made to distance the company from both its own rescue and General Motors’ financial difficulties.
> Former name: Philip Morris
> Year changed: 2003
Philip Morris, maker of brands like Marlboro, changed its name to Altria Group Inc. in 2003 on the same day that the company was cleared of responsibility in a wrongful death case. The move had been planned since 2001. Philip Morris claimed that the name change was intended to emphasize that the company sells a wide array of products, in addition to the famous tobacco brand, but the assumption for many is that the move was largely to disassociate the company from its 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 tobacco units, Philip Morris International and Philip Morris USA, kept their original names.
> Former name: World Wrestling Federation
> Year changed: 2002
The popular entertainment company once known as the World Wrestling Federation, or WWF, had to change its name for a very different reason than many of the other companies on this list — a trademark violation. Few multimillion dollar companies come across such a problem. But the World Wildlife Fund, a global conservation organization founded in 1961 that carries the initials WWF, sued the entertainment group and won on the grounds that it had broken a 1994 agreement that it would limit use of the WWF initials. The WWF in 2002 changed its name to World Wrestling Entertainment, and finally just WWE.
9. AirTran Airways
> Former name: ValuJet Airlines
> Year changed: 1997
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 stated 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.
10. Bausch Health
> Former name: Valeant Pharmaceuticals
> Year changed: 2018
Valeant Pharmaceuticals gained tremendous public notoriety for sharply raising prices on life-saving drugs the company offered through its pharmacy Philidor, which has since been shut down. Company shares plummeted in 2015 and several public lawsuits have surfaced in the wake of the collapse. The company adopted the name of its eye care subsidiary, Bausch + Lomb, which it acquired in 2013.
In July 2018 it officially changed its name to Bausch Health. In late 2019, the company agreed to pay shareholders $1.21 billion on the grounds that it misled them about its financial situation leading up to the stock price collapse.
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