By DAVID MOON, Moon Capital Management,
July 27, 2008
Several years ago,
my young children thought Moon Capital Management occupied all 24 floors of the
building in which our office is located. They just couldn't understand why I put
the letters 'BB&T' on the top of my building.
When I finally explained it, they then wanted to know
what the initials 'BB&T' stood for.
Most 'initial names' of companies make no sense. NBC and
ABC are in the same business. But what about CBS and CVS? Or PMS?
Some companies have numbers and letters, like 7-Eleven,
or 3Com. Most everyone knows that 7-Eleven refers to the company's operating
hours, but would you have guessed that 3Com is a shortened version of
Computer Communication & Compatibility Corp.?
Like BB&T, financial services companies are well
known for their acronyms.
UBS is a brokerage firm. UPS is a freight shipper. USB
is that miracle port on your computer. Don't confuse these or you'll try
stuffing an envelope full of stock certificates into your floppy drive.
HSBC is another financial services company: Hongkong
& Shanghai Banking Corporation. I don't care where they're headquartered,
financial services companies shouldn't have the word 'shanghai' in their
Financial services firm Le Cr'dit Lyonnais changed its name
to LCL after being implicated in an international money-laundering scandal.
Mysteriously, mounds of evidence disappeared in an unexplained fire, as did
apparently the company's original name.
Do you have any idea what ABN AMRO does? It's one of the
largest banks in Europe. Now it is
splitting, so somebody's going to lose some letters.
Some initial names make practical sense. 'SAAB' is a
much easier sell in the U.S. than 'Svenska Aeroplan
You should get a month's free text messages if you know
that Sprint is the acronym for Southern Pacific Railroad INTernal
Despite what you heard in high school, Adidas is named
after the company's founder, Adolf (Adi) Dassler (Das). It has nothing to do
with day-dreaming. Reebok is named after an African antelope, the
I know that BASF is the largest chemical company in the
world, but I always feel like I'm almost cursing when I say the company's
The Smart car is a combination of the words Swatch,
Mercedes and ART.
M&M is an OK name for a candy, I suppose. Even at
Halloween, people probably don't confuse it with S&M. Most people would
probably guess that the first M stands for Mars (Forrest Mars, founder of the
Mars candy company), but only an employee of the company might know that the
second M is Mars' partner Bruce Murrie.
By the way, the original moniker of North
Carolina-based BB&T was Branch Banking & Trust. CBS was originally
Columbia Broadcasting System, and CVS is short for Convenience Value
Which brings us to Kentucky Fried Chicken. One popular
theory is that the company has rebranded as KFC to distance itself from the
unhealthy connotations of the word 'fried.' Its recent ads suggest that KFC
stands for Kentucky Fresh Chicken. Yeah, right. Maybe I've just overlooked all
the feathers behind the drive-through window.
David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management, a
Knoxville-based investment management firm. This article
originally appeared in the News Sentinel (Knoxville, TN).