NEW YORK — American Credit Card Telephone became CardTel. Sickroom Service Co. changed to Healthcall Inc. And United Virginia Bankshares became Crestar Financial.
These were three of the more arresting transformations last year as a record 1,753 American corporations changed names, up 27% from the previous year, a new survey said Wednesday.
The identity consulting firm Anspach Grossman Portugal Inc., which has been monitoring name changes for 19 years, said the latest total easily surpassed the previous high mark of 1,382 name changes set in 1986.
While 54% of the name changes reflected mergers and acquisitions, the firm said one in six of the changes--290 in all--were done at the election of the company involved.
"These new names reflect a deliberate decision by management to signal a new direction or strategy for the corporation, to capitalize on the familiarity of a brand name or to eliminate a perceived limitation to future growth," Joel Portugal, a principal in the consulting firm, said.
He said among the elective name changes were Allegheny Beverage's change to Alleco, Federal Co.'s change to Holly Farms Corp. and Mohawk Data Sciences' change to Qantel.
Among the 952 name changes that resulted from mergers and acquisitions, he said, were Celanese Corp.'s change to Hoechst Celanese, Tri-Star Pictures' merger into Columbia Pictures Entertainment and the merger of Hughes Tool and Baker International that created Baker Hughes.
Manufacturing and industrial companies accounted for 474 name changes, while banks and thrifts had 321, other financial institutions had 165 and the communications business had 142 name changes, the survey said.