Imperial Brands

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Imperial Brands plc
TypePublic limited company
FTSE 100 Component
PredecessorW.D. & H.O. Wills
Founded1901; 122 years ago (1901)
HeadquartersBristol, England
Area served
Key people
RevenueDecrease £32.551 billion (2022)[1]
Decrease £2.683 billion (2022)[1]
Decrease £1.665 billion (2022)[1]
Number of employees
28,600 (2022)[1]

Imperial Brands plc (formerly Imperial Tobacco Group plc) is a British multinational tobacco company headquartered in London and Bristol, England.[3] 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.[4]

Imperial Brands sold 220.9 billion stick equivalents globally in 2022[1] and has 30 factories worldwide and its products are sold in around 120 countries.[5] 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).[6]

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.[7]

Imperial Tobacco Canada, the Canadian subsidiary of British American Tobacco, has no relationship to Imperial Brands.


1901 to 2000[edit]

Imperial Tobacco building in Raleigh Road, Bristol, constructed in 1912

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.[8][9] 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.[8]

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

In 1902, the Imperial Tobacco Company and the American Tobacco Company agreed to form a joint venture: the British-American Tobacco Company Ltd.[8] 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.[10] 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.[8] 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.[11]

In 1910, Imperial Tobacco formed the Imperial Tobacco Company of India.[12]

In 1985, the company acquired the Peoples Drug chain and all subsidiaries from A. C. Israel.[13] In 1986, the company was acquired by the conglomerate Hanson Trust plc for £2.5 billion.[14] 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.[15] 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.[16]

2000 to present[edit]

The former Reemtsma head office in Hamburg, Germany, pictured July 2009

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.[17] 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.[18] In February 2008, Imperial acquired the world's then fifth-largest tobacco company, Altadis, whose brands included Fortuna, Gauloises Blondes, and Gitanes.[19] A number of factory closures were subsequently announced, including the long-running cigar factory in Bristol.[20]

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.[21]

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.[22] The company's name changed to Commonwealth-Altadis Inc.[23]

In 2013, Imperial opened a new global headquarters in Bristol.[24]

In April 2014, Imperial announced the closure of its long-running Horizon factory in Nottingham. The factory closed in 2016, marking the end of cigarette production in England.[25]

On 15 July 2014, Reynolds American agreed to buy Greensboro, North Carolina-based Lorillard Tobacco Company, for $27.4 billion.[26] The deal also included the sale of the Kool, Winston, Salem, and blu eCigs brands to Imperial for $7.1 billion.[27] In November 2014, Imperial said Commonwealth-Altadis and the Lorillard operations being acquired would be called ITG Brands LLC.[28] The deal with Lorillard was completed on 12 June 2015, and as part of the deal, Greensboro became the location of the ITG headquarters.[29] 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.[30]

Former logo of the company, used until 2016 when it changed to "Imperial Brands"

In February 2016, Imperial changed its name to "Imperial Brands" to distance itself from tobacco.[31]

In 2018, a subsidiary, Imperial Brands Ventures, took a stake in Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies which is licensed by the UK government to develop cannabis-based medicines.[32]

In November 2019, after searching for a new chairman since February, the company announced its senior independent director Thérèse Esperdy would take the role.[33]

In July 2020 Stefan Bomhard, the former chief executive of global automotive distributor Inchcape and former president of Bacardi Europe, became chief executive of Imperial Brands.[34]

In 2021 Imperial Brands opened an office in Hammersmith, West London.[3]

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.[1]

In 2022 and 2023 Imperial Brands launched blu 2.0, an upgrade to its blu vaping device, in the UK and several other countries.[35]


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).[36] Nottinghamshire Archives hold the John Player and Sons collections (main ref. DD/PL).[37] The archives at Liverpool Central Library hold records of the Ogden Branch (Ref. 380 OGD).[38]


The company's brands include:[39]





The Nottingham factory and the group's French factory in Nantes closed in 2016, with production moved to Eastern Europe.[40]


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.[41]


  1. ^ Products in Australia – Camel, More, Mevius, among others
  2. ^ a b along with British American Tobacco
  3. ^ British American Tobacco's old products
  4. ^ 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
  5. ^ a b Along with Japan Tobacco
  6. ^ a b c d e f Fine-cut tobacco
  7. ^ a b c Rolling paper
  8. ^ Snus tobacco


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Annual Report 2022" (PDF). Imperial Brands. Retrieved 14 February 2023.
  2. ^ "Our companies". Imperial Brands. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  3. ^ a b Hodgson, Joanna (16 February 2023). "Office days: The full list of average weekly working patterns at FTSE 100 firms". Evening Standard. Retrieved 4 July 2023.
  4. ^ "Alison Cooper: lighting up Imperial Tobacco". The Telegraph. London. 21 March 2010. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
  5. ^ "Corporate Fact File" (PDF). Imperial Tobacco Group plc. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 September 2010. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
  6. ^ "International strategic brands". Imperial Tobacco Group plc. Archived from the original on 28 February 2009. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
  7. ^ "FTSE All-Share Index Ranking". Retrieved 26 December 2011.
  8. ^ a b c d "Imperial Tobacco History – Formation". Imperial Tobacco. Archived from the original on 1 March 2015. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  9. ^ Stead, W. T. (1901). The Americanization of the World. Horace Markley. pp. 379–380.
  10. ^ "Imperial Tobacco Company Building" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places — Nomination and Inventory. n.d. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
  11. ^ "Imperial Tobacco History – Diversification". Imperial Tobacco. Archived from the original on 1 March 2015. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  12. ^ "History and Evolution". ITC Limited. Retrieved 14 September 2013.
  13. ^ Chain Drug Review, 14 March 1988 "Lane being converted to the Peoples name"
  14. ^ "Imperial Tobacco History – The Hanson Years". Imperial Tobacco. Archived from the original on 1 March 2015. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  15. ^ [1991] 1 WLR 589
  16. ^ "Imperial Tobacco History – The Company today". Imperial Tobacco. Archived from the original on 1 March 2015. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  17. ^ "BBC News - BUSINESS - Imperial buys top German cigarette maker". 7 March 2002. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  18. ^ Bruce Schreiner, "Houchens expanding at a rapid pace: Company has evolved since Kentucky start", Associated Press, 24 December 2007
  19. ^ "Imperial Tobacco to buy Altadis for $17bn". New York Times. 19 July 2007. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  20. ^ "Imperial Tobacco Group PLC - Media - News - Imperial Tobacco Group PLC announces European integration restructuring projects (19 June, 2008)". Archived from the original on 5 October 2015. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  21. ^ "Tobacco firm loses legal battle". BBC News. 30 September 2010.
  22. ^ "Cigar Company to Create 55 Jobs in Fort Lauderdale". Sun-Sentinel. 29 June 2011. p. 1D.
  23. ^ "9-to-5 News". Daily News. 7 December 2011.
  24. ^ "New, ultra-green offices 'reflect company ethos'". Bristol Post. 12 July 2013. Archived from the original on 3 April 2015. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  25. ^ "Last English-produced cigarettes made in Nottingham". BBC News. 21 May 2016. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  26. ^ Bray, Michael J. de la Merced and Chad (15 July 2014). "To Compete With Altria, Reynolds American Is Buying Lorillard".
  27. ^ Mangan, Dan (15 July 2014). "Feeling blu? E-cig company spun off in major tobacco deal". CNBC.
  28. ^ Craver, Richard (6 November 2014). "Imperial Tobacco chooses name for proposed expanded U.S. subsidiary". Winston-Salem Journal. p. A9.
  29. ^ Craver, Richard (16 June 2015). "ITG's Florida workforce not moving to Greensboro". Winston-Salem Journal. Retrieved 26 June 2015.
  30. ^ "ITG Brands moving tobacco production from Reidsville to Greensboro". News & Record. 1 November 2018. Retrieved 2 November 2018.
  31. ^ "Imperial Tobacco is rebranding to Imperial Brands". City AM. 5 February 2016. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  32. ^ "Tobacco giant Imperial Brands invests in medical cannabis". BBC News. 28 June 2018. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  33. ^ Media, Insider. "New chairman revealed at Imperial Brands". Insider Media Ltd. Retrieved 5 November 2019.
  34. ^ Hancock, Alice (3 February 2020). "Imperial Brands names new chief executive". Financial Times. Retrieved 4 July 2023.
  35. ^ Ralph, Alex (4 July 2023). "Smokers crave alternative, says Imperial boss". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 4 July 2023.
  36. ^ "W D & H O Wills and Imperial Tobacco: online catalogue". Bristol City Council. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  37. ^ "John Player and Sons: online catalogue". Nottinghamshire County Council. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  38. ^ "Ogden Branch: online catalogue". Liverpool City Council. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  39. ^ "Brand portfolio". Imperial Brands. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  40. ^ Robinson, Duncan; Carnegy, Hugh (15 April 2014). "Imperial Tobacco to cut jobs and shut factories in UK and France". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 10 December 2022. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  41. ^ Macaskill, Mark. "Tobacco firms lobbied politicians in Scotland in 'breach of WHO treaty'". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 31 May 2022.

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