Monsanto brand name may get the circular file in proposed Bayer acquisition

If Bayer's proposed $66 billion purchase of Monsanto goes through, Bayer is considering dropping the Monsanto name.

That's the word from Bloomberg, which cited sources familiar with the drugmaker's internal talks. 

Such a move wouldn't necessarily be surprising. Even by pharma standards, Monsanto ($MON) has a dismal reputation. The agricultural giant, vilified for its genetically modified seeds and past products like Agent Orange and DDT, regularly anchors the bottom of the annual Harris Poll ranking of the reputations of 100 U.S. corporations. And words like “evil,” “hated” and “dangerous” pop up on the first page of a Google search of its brand name. 

On the flip side, while Bayer has taken its lumps as part of the pharma industry, it has one of the better reputations among its peers. This year it also ranked No. 3 behind Coca-Cola and Hershey’s in CoreBrand’s assessment of the 100 most powerful brands.

In that sense, “Monsanto has a better chance of improving its reputation under Bayer’s roof," Marc Tuengler, chief of German proxy adviser DSW, told the news service.

So far, the two companies themselves have said little about a possible name change, other than to express seemingly mutual openness to the idea.

As Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant told Bloomberg TV after the deal was announced Sept. 14, “the key is less about the name and more about the products developed.” And new Bayer skipper Werner Baumann has said there's an opportunity for the companies to “get beyond this image and reputation thing” by building on Bayer's solid European reputation.

But the companies will have plenty of time to figure out their plans. The merger will likely face intense U.S. and European regulatory scrutiny, which should keep the deal from closing before late next year.

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