AGT to Undergo a Name-Change Back
June 29, 1996

Alberta's telephone company is heading for a historic name change that will cut the remaining lines that symbolically connect it to the government.

Telus Corp. is expected to announce next week that it will drop AGT from the names of its subsidiaries, advertising sources say. For 93 years the letters have abbreviated the company's original name, Alberta Government Telephones.

The plan is to avoid confusion between Telus's corporate activities and the services provided by its subsidiaries by uniting the company under a single brand name.

Bill Gajda, Telus vice-president of public affairs, did not want to discuss next week's announcement, saying Friday the company wants to reveal its strategies first to its employees.

But he said Telus has picked a new advertising firm and has been considering "brand" issues. That firm is expected to be Ogilvy & Mather/West, advertising sources say.

The phone company has recently begun underscoring in its advertising that subsidiaries AGT Ltd. and AGT Mobility Inc. are Telus companies.

Alberta Government Telephones adopted the name Telus in October 1990, after the province decided to sell shares in the Crown corporation to the public.

The initial public offering featured 75 million shares at $12. A year later the government sold its remaining 54 million shares at $15.

When Alberta became a province, it was one of the new government's first major political decisions to get into the phone business. Premier Alex Rutherford's first provincial budget in 1906 included $25,000 for phone development to combat Bell Canada's monopoly.

AGT commenced operations later that year, marking the first time a government got directly involved in the phone business in North America.

The province took its first step to distance itself from the business in 1958 when it established the Alberta Government Telephones Commission which managed the system and became responsible for long-term financing.

Allan Warrack, a University of Alberta business professor who was the cabinet minister responsible for telephones in the 1970s, says it makes sense now to drop the AGT name and simplify the company's name.

"I think we are two decades overdue to change the name," Warrack said. As minister he put forward a plan to change the name, but it was shot down in caucus. "I must have been ahead of my time, I guess."

It is not known how the name changes will apply to Edmonton Telephones, which AGT bought from the City of Edmonton in 1995 for $720 million.

But Warrack, who sits on EdTel's board, says the local service will not have its name changed.

"All the surveys indicate that Edmonton Telephones is a really valued brand name in the city of Edmonton. Until that perception changes in the public, you are really giving away economic value to change the name."