|Type||Public limited company|
FTSE 100 Component
|Predecessor||W.D. & H.O. Wills|
|Revenue||£32.551 billion (2022)|
|£2.683 billion (2022)|
|£1.665 billion (2022)|
Number of employees
Imperial Brands plc (formerly Imperial Tobacco Group plc) is a British multinational tobacco company headquartered in London and Bristol, England. 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 fine-cut tobacco and tobacco papers.
Imperial Brands sold 220.9 billion stick equivalents globally in 2022 and has 30 factories worldwide and its products are sold in around 120 countries. Its brands include Davidoff, West, Golden Virginia (the world's best-selling hand rolling tobacco), Drum (the world's second-largest-selling fine-cut tobacco), and Rizla (the world's best-selling rolling paper).
Imperial Brands also have expanded their product range in recent years to include alternative nicotine products, including the blu vape brand, the Pulze and iD heated tobacco system, and the Zone X and Skruf nicotine pouches.
Imperial Brands is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. It had a market capitalization around £18.5 billion as of 4 June 2019, the 28th-largest of any company with a primary listing on the London Stock Exchange.
1901 to 2000
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. 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.
In 1902, the Imperial Tobacco Company and the American Tobacco Company agreed to form a joint venture: the British-American Tobacco Company Ltd. 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, US between 1908, and 1913. It also established its own leaf-buying organisation in the United States through its building, the Imperial Tobacco Warehouse, in Durham, North Carolina, which is now owned, and has been renovated by, Measurement Incorporated. American Tobacco sold its share in 1911, but Imperial maintained an interest in British American Tobacco until 1980. 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 while tobacco products continued to be sold by a newly formed subsidiary named Imperial Tobacco Limited.
In 1985, the company acquired the Peoples Drug chain and all subsidiaries from A. C. Israel. In 1986, the company was acquired by the conglomerate Hanson Trust plc for £2.5 billion. Divestments during the period of ownership by Hanson included Courage Brewery to Elders, Golden Wonder to Dalgety, Finlays to Arunbhai 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. 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.
2000 to present
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. 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. In February 2008, Imperial acquired the world's then fifth-largest tobacco company, Altadis, whose brands included Fortuna, Gauloises Blondes, and Gitanes. A number of factory closures were subsequently announced, including the long-running cigar factory in Bristol.
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.
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. The company's name changed to Commonwealth-Altadis Inc.
In 2013, Imperial opened a new global headquarters in Bristol.
On 15 July 2014, Reynolds American agreed to buy Greensboro, North Carolina-based Lorillard Tobacco Company, for $27.4 billion. The deal also included the sale of the Kool, Winston, Salem, and blu eCigs brands to Imperial for $7.1 billion. In November 2014, Imperial said Commonwealth-Altadis and the Lorillard operations being acquired would be called ITG Brands LLC. The deal with Lorillard was completed on 12 June 2015, and as part of the deal, Greensboro became the location of the ITG headquarters. On 1 November 2018, ITG announced production would move from the former American Tobacco Company plant in Reidsville, North Carolina, built in 1892, and later expanded, to Greensboro by 2020. The plant made USA Gold, Sonoma, Montclair and Rave.
In February 2016, Imperial changed its name to "Imperial Brands" to distance itself from tobacco.
In November 2019, after searching for a new chairman since February, the company announced its senior independent director Thérèse Esperdy would take the role.
In 2021 Imperial Brands opened an office in Hammersmith, West London.
In 2021 Imperial Brands launched the Pulze and iD heated tobacco system in selected European markets. The company has also launched Zone X, an oral nicotine brand, in several European countries.
In 2022 and 2023 Imperial Brands launched blu 2.0, an upgrade to its blu vaping device, in the UK and several other countries.
The principal companies involved in setting up Imperial Tobacco were W. D. & H. O. Wills Limited and John Player & Sons of Nottingham. Bristol Archives holds extensive records of W D & H O Wills and Imperial Tobacco (Ref. 38169). Nottinghamshire Archives hold the John Player and Sons collections (main ref. DD/PL). The archives at Liverpool Central Library hold records of the Ogden Branch (Ref. 380 OGD).
The company's brands include:
- All JTI [note 1]
- Bastos (cigarette)
- Dutch Masters (cigar)
- Backwoods Smokes
- blu (vape)
- Capstan [note 2]
- Escort [note 3]
- John Player & Sons
- John Player Best
- Lambert & Butler [note 4]
- Mark Fernyhough
- Parker & Simpson
- Peter Stuyvesant [note 2]
- Rodeo (in Macedonia)
- Route 66
- Salem [note 5]
- USA Gold
- Winston [note 5]
Fortuna cigarettes packet
Packets of Gauloises Blondes cigarettes
A packet of Drum tobacco
Rizla+ King Size Silver Slims
In May 2022, The Times reported that the company had lobbied politicians in Scotland. Ivan McKee, the trade minister, was the highest-ranking government official who had met with the executives from Imperial Brands: he met them twice in 2018.
- Products in Australia – Camel, More, Mevius, among others
- along with British American Tobacco
- British American Tobacco's old products
- Because Imperial Tobacco does not own the trademark on the original name, Lambert & Butler is known in some countries as L&B or Great & British
- Along with Japan Tobacco
- Fine-cut tobacco
- Rolling paper
- Snus tobacco
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-  1 WLR 589
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- "W D & H O Wills and Imperial Tobacco: online catalogue". Bristol City Council. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
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