Would a security company by any other name smell sweeter?
Argenbright Security Inc. will find out soon. After months of sour headlines about Argenbright's airport baggage screeners failing to spot weapons, stay awake or speak English on the job, the company plans to shed its name by summer, sources said.
It will split into two units -- one handling commercial security for big corporations, such as current client AOL Time Warner Inc., and the other providing general airport services such as helping passengers with wheelchairs -- and each will be re-christened, the sources said.
According to the sources, "Cognisa" is among the candidates for the commercial segment's new name and "First Vector" is a potential tag for the aviation side.
Company spokesman Chris Chiames declined to comment on those names, saying only that "a name change has been envisioned going back to Securicor's purchase of Argenbright in 2000 and that still remains part of the plan."
Securicor PLC, based in Britain, paid $185 million in December 2000 to buy Argenbright from its founder, Frank Argenbright, who started the company with $500 and a polygraph machine in the basement of the Atlanta airport Sheraton in 1979.
At the time of the sale, Argenbright was the biggest airport baggage-screening contractor in the United States. After Sept. 11, though, the company became a symbol of lax security because of a series of high-profile lapses that included letting a man clear a checkpoint at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport carrying a bag full of knives and a stun gun.
Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta decided in February that the government would not do business with Argenbright as it takes over responsibility for airport baggage screening. Globe Aviation Services Corp. will replace Argenbright at Washington's three area airports beginning Monday, and other contractors will replace Argenbright nationwide the same day.