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Fewer Companies Changing Their Names

Associated Press

A few memorable names such as Eastern Airlines Air Shuttle, the First Women’s Bank and Gulf & Western Inc. disappeared from corporate record books in the first half of the year.

But overall, the number of U.S. companies that changed their names fell 18% in the first six months of 1989, compared to a year ago, the first such decline in four years.

The identity consulting firm Anspach Grossman Portugal Inc., which compiled the study, attributed the decline to a slower pace of business merger activity than during the same period last year.

The firm said 767 American companies changed their names in the January through June period, down from a record 931 name changes in the first six months of 1988. It was the first such decline since 1985.

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Despite the slower pace of merger activity, mergers and acquisitions remained the most frequently cited reason for name changes in the latest period, accounting for 351 changes, or 46% of the total.

Corporate downsizing, spinoffs and asset sales accounted for 177 of the name changes or 23% of the total.

The Air Shuttle, for instance, was renamed the Trump Shuttle after developer Donald Trump bought it from troubled Eastern.

The survey said there were 139 elective name changes, or 18% of the total. Included among these were the Home Group Inc.'s adoption of the name AmBase Corp., Middle South Utilities Inc.'s change to Entergy Corp. and American Hoist & Derrick Co.'s switch to Amdura Corp.

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The remaining name changes were done to reflect corporate restructuring or reorganization, modifications to a holding company and other assorted alterations in legal status.

Joel Portugal, a principal at Anspach Grossman Portugal, said some companies are finding value in sticking with their names or a shortened version of them rather than creating entirely new names.

He said F. W. Woolworth Co. appeared to be following that strategy by streamlining its name to Woolworth Corp. and Eastern Gas & Fuel Associates did so by changing to Eastern Enterprises.

Even Gulf & Western, which became Paramount Communications Inc. last month, turned to an old Hollywood name many people recognize, Portugal said.

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One of the more unusual name changes by a bank was the decision by the First Women’s Bank to change its name to First New York Bank for Business. The New York-based bank--which formerly catered almost exclusively to women customers--said the change reflected its belief that women no longer are discriminated against by other banks and by a decision to expand into middle-market commercial lending.


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