Altria Makes Leadership Changes as CEO Willard Retires

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Altria Makes Leadership Changes as CEO Willard Retires

Altria CEO Billy Gifford
Altria CEO Billy Gifford

RICHMOND, Va. — Altria Group Inc. named Billy Gifford as its new CEO.

The move comes as Howard Willard, who served as CEO since 2018, retired on April 14 after 28 years with Altria and its subsidiaries. He also stepped down as chairman of the board of directors.

Willard temporarily handed the reins to Gifford last month after contracting COVID-19, as Convenience Store News previously reported.

Gifford has served in numerous senior leadership roles during his more than 25-year career at Altria, including most recently vice chairman and chief financial officer where he was responsible for Altria's financial functions as well as its core tobacco businesses, sales and distribution business, and Consumer & Marketplace Insights team.

Previously he served as Altria's senior vice president, Strategy and Business Development and president and CEO of Philip Morris USA. He currently serves as a director at Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV as one of Altria's designees.

"We believe we're well positioned to make significant progress against our vision," Gifford said. "I'm excited to work with our strong leadership team, fantastic employees and key stakeholders to lead Altria forward in its pursuit of the 10-year vision."

With Willard's retirement, the board decided to separate the roles of chairman and CEO, electing Thomas Farrell, formerly the board's independent presiding director, as independent chairman of the board, effective April 16.

"The board thanks Howard for his nearly 30 years of distinguished service to Altria and for helping to set the course for Altria's 10-year vision to responsibly lead the transition of adult smokers to a non-combustible future," Farrell said. "Our election of Billy as the next CEO reflects the board's belief that his collaborative leadership style, strategic mindset and deep financial and industry expertise are right to lead Altria towards that future."

With Gifford's new position, the board also elected Salvatore Mancuso, as 29-year company veteran, as executive vice president and CFO. In his most recent role as senior vice president, Finance and Procurement, he oversaw Altria's treasury, tax, audit, financial planning and analysis, and controller functions while also overseeing the Procurement and Information Services teams, among others.

Richmond-based Altria's wholly owned subsidiaries include Philip Morris USA Inc. U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. LLC, John Middleton Co., Sherman Group Holdings LLC and its subsidiaries, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates Ltd. and Philip Morris Capital Corp.

The company also owns an 80-percent interest in Helix Innovations LLC and holds equity investments in Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV, Juul Labs Inc. and Cronos Group Inc.