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Can name changes like GVC’s to Entain really help firms escape sins of the past?

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Ladbrokes owner GVC Holdings PLC (LON:GVC) announced on Thursday morning that it is changing its name to Entain PLC as part of a slight strategic shift under its new chief executive Shay Segev.

The move comes as the FTSE 100 company, which also owns the Sportingbet, Foxy Bingo, bwin and Party Poker, said 99% of its revenue will be from regulated markets by the end of the year, up from 96% currently, and it aims to make this 100% by 2023 by ducking out of any ‘grey’ markets.

READ: GVC Holdings to change name to Entain PLC and exit unregulated markets

GVC’s rebrand also seems to be part of a move to ‘turn over a new leaf’ and improve its public perception, with the company also planning to donate £100mln over the next five years to community projects, including supporting grassroots sport, and instal wider responsible gambling controls into its platform.

With problem gambling and the sponsorship of sports teams by betting firms increasingly attracting headlines and the ire of regulators, and ESG investing concerns increasingly dominant, it seems like a prudent move from a PR and investor relations perspective.

Rebranding to repair your public image is nothing new for the UK’s major firms, with the name change of Royal Bank of Scotland to Natwest Group PLC (LON:NWG) in July seen as an instance of the firm trying to break with its toxic past following a series of scandals following the 2008 financial crisis payment protection insurance (PPI), rate fixing and the behaviour of its Global Restructuring Group (GRG) business unit.

It was a similar story for accountancy firm Arthur Anderson, which saw its reputation left in tatters following its role in the bankruptcy of US energy giant Enron. The company was then dismembered and its consultancy arm renamed Accenture in 2001.

When a rebrand goes wrong

Perhaps one of the more famous examples of a rebrand messing up completely also originated in 2001 with the name change of Royal Mail Group PLC (LON:RMG) to ‘Consignia’ as part of a strategy by then chief executive John Roberts to expand the scope of the business and attempt to push into international markets.

The £2mln cost to rebrand and then un-rebrand became an instant laughing stock and lasted around sixteen months before it was canned.

As the brainchild, Roberts also found himself being consigned to the list of former CEOs of the firm shortly after.

Notable successes

While Royal Mail botched its own attempt to use a rebrand as a form of corporate expansion, tech giant Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL) was more successful. While originally known as Apple Computers, the name was shortened as the firm began to expand into music players with the iPod and eventually mobiles with the iPhone, giving its brand a broader cover for its new ranges.

Other rebrands have more mundane goals in mind, such as the 2015 rebrand of search engine giant Google to Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG).

The tech firm formed Alphabet as a parent to the core search engine business, which remains its largest asset, while also allowing it to scale the management of its other business arms, many of which include research & development firms creating technology related to self-driving cars and other so-called ‘moon-shot’ projects. 

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