Altria Insider to Replace Longtime CEO in May

02/01/18 08:22 AM EST
By Cara Lombardo 

Altria Group Inc. Chief Executive Marty Barrington is retiring and will be replaced by another 25-year company veteran.

Mr. Barrington, who has held the top post for six years, will retire in May after a quarter of a century with the tobacco company, Altria said Thursday. His replacement is Howard Willard, 54, the company's current operating chief and former finance chief.

Altria also plans to add Mr. Willard to its board of directors. It also said finance chief, Billy Gifford, who has been with the company for 23 years, will become vice chairman in May.

Mr. Willard will take the reins as the company struggles to make up for falling cigarette volumes through a combination of price hikes and new product formats.

Revenue from its smokable products, including Marlboro cigarettes, dropped 3.2% in the fourth-quarter as U.S. cigarette shipments slid 8.9%.

The company was dealt a setback last month when the Food and Drug Administration said there wasn't enough evidence that a hand-held device made by Philip Morris International Inc. reduces the risks of tobacco-related disease. Philip Morris already sells the device, IQOS, in 29 countries and Altria hopes to sell it in the U.S.

Overall for the quarter, Altria reported a fourth-quarter profit $2.60 a share. Excluding one-time items such as a $3.4 billion benefit stemming from U.S. tax law changes, the company earned 91 cents a share, up from 68 cents a share in the year-earlier period. Analysts had expected adjusted earnings per share of 80 cents.

The company said it expects 2018 adjusted earnings per share in a range of $3.90 to $4.03, excluding a 9-cent per-share tax expense, and an effective tax rate of about 23% to 24%.

Altria shares, down almost 1% over the past year, were down less than 1% in premarket trading.

Write to Cara Lombardo at


Corrections & Amplifications

This article was corrected at 10:29 a.m. ET because the original incorrectly stated Billy Gifford would join the board of directors in the third paragraph. Altria's finance chief, Gifford will become vice chairman.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 01, 2018 08:22 ET (13:22 GMT)

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