Imperial Brands

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This article is about the British company
"Imperial Tobacco" redirects here. For the Canadian company, see Imperial Tobacco Canada.
Imperial Brands plc
Public limited company
Traded as LSEIMB
Industry Tobacco
Founded 1901; 115 years ago (1901)
Headquarters Bristol, United Kingdom
Area served
Key people
Mark Williamson (Chairman)
Alison Cooper (CEO)
Products Cigarettes, cigars, fine-cut rolling tobacco, snuff, rolling papers and tubes
Revenue £25.289 billion (2015)[1]
£1.988 billion (2015)[1]
£1.723 billion (2015)[1]
Number of employees
36,400 (2015)[1]
  • Fontem Ventures
  • Imperial Tobacco
  • ITG Brands
  • Logista
  • Tabacalera[2]

Imperial Brands plc, formerly Imperial Tobacco Group plc is a British multinational tobacco company headquartered in Bristol, United Kingdom. It is the world’s fourth-largest international cigarette company measured by market share after Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, and Japan Tobacco, and the world's largest producer of cigars, fine-cut tobacco, and tobacco papers.[3]

Imperial Brands produces over 320 billion cigarettes per year, has 51 factories worldwide, and its products are sold in over 160 countries.[4] Its brands include Davidoff, West, Gauloises Blondes, Montecristo, Golden Virginia (the world's largest-selling hand rolling tobacco), Drum (the world's second-largest-selling fine-cut tobacco), and Rizla (the world’s best-selling rolling paper).[5]

Imperial Brands is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. It had a market capitalisation around £24.3 billion as of 23 December 2011, the 19th-largest of any company with a primary listing on the London Stock Exchange.[6]

Imperial Tobacco Canada has no relationship to Imperial Tobacco Group plc. Imperial Tobacco Canada is the Canadian subsidiary of British American Tobacco.


1901 to 2000[edit]

A 2-ounce (57 g) tin for J&F Bell "Three Nuns" tobacco

The Imperial Tobacco Company was created in 1901 through the amalgamation of 13 British tobacco and cigarette companies: W.D. & H.O. Wills of Bristol (the leading manufacturer of tobacco products at that time), John Player & Sons of Nottingham, and 11 other independent family businesses, which were in competition with companies from the United States by the American Tobacco Company.[7][8] First W. D. & H. O. Wills of Bristol merged with Stephen Mitchell & Son of Glasgow. Subsequently, other smaller companies including Lambert & Butler, William Clarke & Son, Franklyn Davey, Edwards Ringer & Bigg, Hignett Brothers, Hignett's Tobacco, Adkins & Sons, Richmond Cavendish, D&J MacDoland, and F&J Smith joined in the amalgamation. In 1904, James & Finlay Bell Ltd merged with Stephen Mitchell & Son. The Company's first chairman was William Henry Wills of the Wills Company.[7]

In 1902, the Imperial Tobacco Company and the American Tobacco Company agreed to form a joint venture: the British-American Tobacco Company Ltd.[7] The parent companies agreed not to trade in each other's domestic territory and to assign trademarks, export businesses, and overseas subsidiaries to the joint venture. It built the Imperial Tobacco Company Building at Mullins, South Carolina, between 1908 and 1913.[9] American Tobacco sold its share in 1911, but Imperial maintained an interest in British American Tobacco until 1980.[7] In 1973, the Imperial Tobacco Company, having become increasingly diversified by acquisition of (amongst others) restaurant chains, food services and distribution businesses, changed its name to Imperial Group.[10]

In 1910, Imperial Tobacco formed the Imperial Tobacco Company of India.

In 1985, the company acquired the Peoples Drugstore chain and all subsidiaries from A. C. Israel.[11] In 1986 the Company was acquired by the conglomerate Hanson Trust plc for £2.5billion.[12] Divestments during the period of ownership by Hanson included Courage Brewery to Elders, Golden Wonder to Dalgety, Finlays to A J Patel, the wholesaling arm of Sinclair & Collis to Palmer & Harvey, Imperial Hotels and Catering to Trust House Forte and Ross Frozen Foods to United Biscuits. This also led to a dispute over pension payments to employees, as seen in Imperial Group Pension Trust Ltd v Imperial Tobacco Ltd.[13] In 1996, following a decision to concentrate on core tobacco activities, Hanson de-merged Imperial and it was listed as an independent company on the UK stock exchange.[14]

2000 to present[edit]

Imperial Brands head office in Bristol
The Reemtsma head office in Hamburg, Germany

In 2003, Imperial acquired the world's then fourth-largest tobacco company, Reemtsma Cigarettenfabriken GmbH of Germany: the deal added brands such as Davidoff, Peter Stuyvesant, and West to its portfolio.[15] In 2007, Imperial Tobacco entered the United States tobacco market with its $1.9-billion acquisition of Commonwealth Brands Inc, then the fourth-largest tobacco company in the US.[16] In February 2008, Imperial acquired the world's then fifth-largest tobacco company, Altadis, whose brands included Fortuna, Gauloises Blondes, and Gitanes.[17] A number of factory closures were subsequently announced, including the long-running cigar factory in Bristol.[18]

Following the Scottish Parliament's decision in January 2010 to ban the display of tobacco products in shops, as well as the availability of tobacco vending machines in public buildings with effect from autumn 2011, Imperial Tobacco attempted to challenge the change in the law on the grounds that regulations of the sale goods rested with the Houses of Parliament in Westminster. However, this case was dismissed on 30 September 2010 by Lord Bracadale in the Court of Session in Edinburgh.[19]

Logo as Imperial Tobacco

In 2011, Altadis USA Inc. said it would add to its Fort Lauderdale, Florida, headquarters and move Commonwealth Brands Inc. employees from Bowling Green, Kentucky.[20] The company's name changed to Commonwealth-Altadis Inc.[21]

In 2013, Imperial opened a new global headquarters in Bristol.[22]

In April 2014, Imperial announced the closure of its long-running factory in Nottingham [23]

On 15 July 2014, Reynolds American agreed to buy Greensboro, North Carolina-based Lorillard Tobacco Company, for $27.4 billion.[24] The deal also included the sale of the Kool, Winston, Salem, and blu eCigs brands to Imperial for $7.1 billion.[25] In November 2014, Imperial said Commonwealth-Altadis and the Lorillard operations being acquired would be called ITG Brands LLC.[26] The deal with Lorillard was completed on 12 June 2015, and as part of the deal, Greensboro became the location of the ITG headquarters.[27]

In February 2016 Imperial changed its name to Imperial Brands to reflect the growing importance of the company's other businesses.[28]


The principal companies involved in setting up Imperial Tobacco were W D & H O Wills Limited and John Player & Sons of Nottingham. Bristol Record Office holds extensive records of W D & H O Wills and Imperial Tobacco (Ref. 38169) (online catalogue). Nottinghamshire Archives hold the John Player and Sons collections (main ref. DD/PL) (online catalogue). The archives at Liverpool Central Library hold records of the Ogden Branch (Ref. 380 OGD) (online catalogue)


The company's brands include:




The Nottingham factory, and the group's French factory in Nantes are scheduled to close in 2016, with production moved to Eastern Europe.[29]

Senior management[edit]

Imperial Brands' chairman is Mark Williamson. The company's operating executive currently comprises the following:[30]

  • Alison Miles – Chief Executive
  • Helen Clatworthy – Business Transformation Director
  • Peter Corijn – Group Marketing Director
  • Fernando Dominguez – Premium Cigar Director
  • Andy Newall – Group Human Resources Director
  • Matthew Phillips – Corporate Affairs Director
  • Walter Prinz – Group Manufacturing, Supply and Research & Development Director
  • Oliver Tant – Chief Financial Officer


  1. ^ a b c d "Annual Report 2015" (PDF). Imperial Tobacco. Retrieved 25 March 2016. 
  2. ^ "Our companies - Imperial Brands". 
  3. ^ "Alison Cooper: lighting up Imperial Tobacco". London: The Telegraph. 21 March 2010. Retrieved 14 March 2014. 
  4. ^ "Corporate Fact File" (PDF). Imperial Tobacco Group plc. Retrieved 4 September 2010. 
  5. ^ "International strategic brands". Imperial Tobacco Group plc. Archived from the original on 28 February 2009. Retrieved 4 September 2010. 
  6. ^ "FTSE All-Share Index Ranking". Retrieved 26 December 2011. 
  7. ^ a b c d "Imperial Tobacco History – Formation". Imperial Tobacco. Retrieved 15 March 2015. 
  8. ^ Stead, W. T. (1901). The Americanization of the World. Horace Markley. pp. 379–380. 
  9. ^ "Imperial Tobacco Company Building" (pdf). National Register of Historic Places — Nomination and Inventory. n.d. Retrieved 22 February 2014. 
  10. ^ "Imperial Tobacco History – Diversification". Imperial Tobacco. Retrieved 15 March 2015. 
  11. ^ Chain Drug Review, 14 March 1988 “Lane being converted to the Peoples name”
  12. ^ "Imperial Tobacco History – The Hanson Years". Imperial Tobacco. Retrieved 15 March 2015. 
  13. ^ [1991] 1 WLR 589
  14. ^ "Imperial Tobacco History – The Company today". Imperial Tobacco. Retrieved 15 March 2015. 
  15. ^ "BBC News - BUSINESS - Imperial buys top German cigarette maker". Retrieved 15 March 2015. 
  16. ^ Bruce Schreiner, "Houchens expanding at a rapid pace: Company has evolved since Kentucky start", Associated Press, 24 December 2007
  17. ^ "Imperial Tobacco to buy Altadis for $17bn". New York Times. 19 July 2007. Retrieved 15 March 2015. 
  18. ^ "Imperial Tobacco Group PLC - Media - News - Imperial Tobacco Group PLC announces European integration restructuring projects (19 June, 2008)". Retrieved 29 October 2015. 
  19. ^ "Tobacco firm loses legal battle". BBC News. 30 September 2010. 
  20. ^ "Cigar Company to Create 55 Jobs in Fort Lauderdale". Sun-Sentinel. 29 June 2011. p. 1D. 
  21. ^ "9-to-5 News". Daily News. 7 December 2011. 
  22. ^ "New, ultra-green offices 'reflect company ethos'". Bristol Post. 12 July 2013. Retrieved 10 March 2014. 
  23. ^ "Imperial Tobacco to close Nottingham factory". Nottingham Post. 15 April 2015. Retrieved 29 October 2015. 
  24. ^ Bray, Michael J. de la Merced and Chad. "To Compete With Altria, Reynolds American Is Buying Lorillard". 
  25. ^ Mangan, Dan (15 July 2014). "Feeling blu? E-cig company spun off in major tobacco deal". CNBC. 
  26. ^ Craver, Richard (6 November 2014). "Imperial Tobacco chooses name for proposed expanded U.S. subsidiary". Winston-Salem Journal. p. A9. 
  27. ^ Craver, Richard (16 June 2015). "ITG's Florida workforce not moving to Greensboro". Winston-Salem Journal. Retrieved 26 June 2015. 
  28. ^ "Imperial Tobacco is rebranding to Imperial Brands". City AM. 5 February 2016. Retrieved 25 March 2016. 
  29. ^ "Imperial Tobacco to cut jobs and shut factories in UK and France". Financial Times. Retrieved 15 March 2015. 
  30. ^ "Imperial Tobacco Group PLC - Media - Management - Operating Executive - Alison Cooper". Retrieved 15 March 2015. 

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