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May 16, 2007

Did Cerberus Save Chrysler From The Underworld?

Chrysler_logo.pngBrian Dickerson of the Detroit Free Press wrote a wonderful article about Cerberus, a leading private investment firm, the company that bought Chrysler this week for $7.4 billion, and asks “why a company with $60 billion would name itself after a three-headed monster.”

By the way, in Greek mythology, Cerberus is a three-headed dog.

Seems that some investment groups like using terms from Greek mythology in their company naming—one of the least effective name changes from 2006 was Prime Rate Investors’ move to Summus Works. Say it fast, it sounds like “some of us works”.

cerberus.gifBut I would say that a quick look at a list of Investment Company names shows that names from mythology certainly do not dominate the field.

Because there are regulations over what an investment company can call itself, it seems logical that names from history and mythology that just look good—and neutral to regulators—may get some play.

Why would the founders of Cerberus choose that name? Chances are they liked the fact that it looked like the word “cerebral” from “cerebrum”, the Latin word for brain, neither of which have any relation to Cerberus, which is a Greek word.

cerberus_logo.jpgBut it is amusing that an investment company would (probably inadvertently) name itself after a three-headed dog protecting the gates of Hell. I have to say I do like Cerberus’s response: "Our firm was founded to keep companies that are in pretty bad shape from entering the underworld."

Which is exactly what they have done with Chrysler.

Nice save, guys.

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Posted by Diane Prange at May 16, 2007 9:55 AM
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You let Cerberus off the hook way too easily. The mythological dog from hell doesn't protect people from falling into hell; it keeps souls from escaping FROM hell. There are other hellish aspects of Cerberus as well.


Thanks for your comment.

We were aware of the finer points of Cerberus, but we didn't want to unduly worry the Chrysler employees that they might not be able to escape an unpleasant situation.


If I remember correctly, Cerberus guarded the underworld's gates from those attempting to go through in either direction. I think Orpheus had to get by him in his attempt to retrieve Euridice.

Besides, the underworld wasn't exactly Hell, in that almost every mortal ended up there. Elysium was reserved for only the most heroic.

So Cerberus guards the land of (almost all of) the dead, both from letting the dead out and from letting the living in. In that sense, if Chrysler is still alive, Cerberus wouldn't be protecting it. Rather he'd be keeping it from gaining access to a place where the company doesn't belong -- a new market, perhaps? Do the dead buy minivans?

In other words, I don't think it's a very good name if they're trying to express the idea protecting companies from death. They'd need a name that represents cheating death. That's something Sisyphus attempted, but he ended up paying for it.

There was a character in Maori mythology called Maui (a name that obviously means something else to anyone who's heard of the Hawaiian island) who tried to cheat death:

Maui's final feat was to try to win immortality for mankind. Had not Maui tamed the sun? Could he not also tame the night of death? With an expedition, Maui set out to the west, to the place where Hinenui-te-Po, the goddess of death, lay asleep. To accomplish his aim, Maui was to enter her womb, travel through her body and emerge from her mouth. If he succeeded death would never have dominion over humans. With the bird who went with him Maui discussed the plans for his most daring feat, for which he would take on the form of a caterpillar, his magic jawbone making such transformation possible. But the sight of Maui as a caterpillar inching his way over Hine's thigh as she lay sleeping was altogether too much for the little tiwakawaka (fantail), who could not restrain a chirrup of delight. With a start Hine awoke, realised the plan and crushed the helpless Maui between her thighs.

So died Maui-tikitiki-a-Taranga, and so death remained in the world for ever more. You also are mortal - remember that, and mould your conduct accordingly during your brief time in this world.

So Maui didn't manage the job very well either.

The thing about names is that the meanings are at times a reflection of what is in the minds of the leaders. what i mean is that the naming of a company or product many a times is a result of some spiritual essence. How many people would you expect to actually find out its true meaning??? Not many in my estimation so many companies get away with.

besides, it sounds more like something to do with the brain - cerebellum, to most people than anything to do with the underworld. There are many brand names with questionable interpretations as I have come to know but it all depends on how much of that meaning is allowed to permeate the public domain. With people of different belief systems and affinities, people come up with names which they believe will invoke certain forces to aid their product. Take the wine called "Bacchus" as an example.


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