The Curmudgeon

July 01, 2003

'As CMGI dove for protection under Chapter 11, fans and media alike heaved sighs of relief while they reeled their tongues back into their mouths.'

Last year the CFO of Veritas Software Corp. (VRTS) was forced to resign over lies revealed about his education. Veritas, of course, is Latin for 'truth,' so the juxtaposition of the employer's high-sounding moniker with the tale of its prevaricating bean counter seems hilariously oxymoronic. Such revelations create problems for a bevy of companies sporting virtuous appellations as sharp-eyed reporters furiously sift through corporate rosters looking for more Veritas-like gaffes.

You'd do well to check your securities masters against this short list of companies with exceptionally high potential for dirty laundry opprobrium:

Valor Investment Fund (VLIF)-with a name like 'Valor,' you just know newshounds will be sniffing at execs' military  records for evidence of cowardice under fire;

• Integrity Media, Inc. (ITGR)-it goes without saying that hacks are going have a field day if the proprietors have even the slightest daubing of clay where their feet ought to be;

• Tender Loving Care Health Care Services Inc. (TLCS)-officers of this company will need to ask themselves, 'Did that dog-kicking incident get reported in the paper?'

• Faith, Inc. (FAITF)-a board-mandated retreat for reindoctrination of company values should probably be this outfit's number one priority;

• Total Control Products Inc. (TCPS)- can't you just hear the rising murmur in the board room as officers and directors pray that the tales of their college escapades, especially that infamous road trip to Enid, Oklahoma, with Blotto the Wonder  Freshman, are never whispered again?

I won't even touch on the potential journalistic perils awaiting officers at Virgin Express Holdings PLC (VIRGY). You figure it out.

Problems may also await you if you own a corporate skybox at your hometown stadium. Keep in mind the home turf for the Houston Astros, now known rather innocuously as Minute Maid Park, was, for one brief, dismal moment, named Enron Field.

Major league naming rights somehow became the froth in the equity market brew, as millions were paid to bespatter ballparks and arenas with nameplates. Enron's one example, but does anybody remember that the Tennessee Titans once plied their trade within the friendly confines of Adelphia Coliseum? Isn't WorldCom now MCI, the label gracing the Washington Wizard's home court?

Remember the brief, unhappy life of  PSINet Stadium, the one-time christening of the Baltimore Ravens' sod? The pioneering Internet provider's spiral into bankruptcy quickly put an end to that polyconsonant  mangle of a name. No mishmash, however, tops that of 'CMGI Field,' the startlingly short-lived tag for the New England Patriots' Foxboro home. As CMGI dove for protection under Chapter 11, fans and media alike heaved sighs of relief while they reeled their tongues back into their mouths.

If stadiums are constantly changing names, are tied to high-profile economic flops, or are hooked up by name recognition to companies undergoing scrutiny for fraudulent business practices, what does that do to the venues' brands, that of the teams themselves, or the companies that align themselves with them in the luxury seats?

It's bad enough when the name on the brass plate taken down from a ballpark is some newfangled and meaningless amalgam like 'Enron' or 'CINergy.' We may care not a whit if such names are scrubbed from the arches, but what questions would arise if the same fate were to befall say, Faith, Inc.?

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