Altria CEO Howard Willard Steps Down, CFO to Take Over

Jade CooperPeople on the Move

Editorial credit: Oleg Golovnev /

Howard Willard, the Chief Executive and Chairman of Marlboro cigarette maker Altria Group, is stepping down, after nearly three decades with the company.

Willard, who is recovering from COVID-19, took a medical leave of absence last month, and CFO Billy Gifford took over on an interim basis. Gifford will now assume the role on a permanent basis.

Under Willard's leadership Altria took a 35 per cent stake in embattled vaping company Juul Labs. Altria has since seen the value of that investment diminish due controversy over Juul’s contribution to a surge in teenage vaping and reported health concerns, and to several bans to e-cigarettes.

Willard made a $12.8 billion investment in the e-cigarette startup in 2018, leading the company to be valued at $38 billion. But since then, the company has suffered controversy after controversy, and has voluntarily pulled most of its flavors from the US market and scaled back its plans for international expansion.

To add to these woes, earlier this month The Federal Trade Commission sued Altria for its investment in Juul, accusing it of violating federal antitrust laws. Altria said it will defend its investment.

Altria said it was separating the roles of CEO and chairman (Willard previously held both), and named Thomas Farrell, formerly the board's lead independent director, as the new Chair of the Board.

Finance and Procurement Vice President Sal Mancuso has been promoted to the CFO role, to replace Gifford.

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