Altria Group

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Altria Group, Inc. (previously named Philip Morris Companies Inc.), based in New York City, is the parent company of Philip Morris International, Philip Morris USA and Philip Morris Capital Corporation, and is one of the world's largest tobacco corporations. In addition, Altria Group, Inc. has a 28.7% economic and voting interest in one of the world's largest brewing companies, UK based SABMiller plc. It is a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500.

On January 27, 2003, Philip Morris Companies Inc. changed its name to Altria Group, Inc. On March 30, 2007, a spin out of Kraft Foods subsidiary (publicly traded since 2001) was concluded through distribution of the remaining stake of shares (88.1%) to Altria shareholders. As a result, Altria no longer holds any interest in Kraft Foods.

Holdings

Altria Group, Inc. owns 100 percent of Philip Morris USA, Philip Morris International, and Philip Morris Capital Corporation. It also owns 28.7% of SABMiller plc.

The net revenue (and operating income) of Altria Group, Inc. comes predominantly from its tobacco business.

Philip Morris component

Altria's tobacco subsidiary, Philip Morris, is the world's largest commercial tobacco company by sales. Their flagship Marlboro is the world's most popular tobacco brand. Other popular tobacco brands owned by Philip Morris are Parliament, Virginia Slims, and Benson & Hedges (licensed in some markets).

Philip Morris was founded by a London tobacconist of the same name. He was one of the first people to sell hand-rolled cigarettes in the 1860s, selling them under the brand names Oxford and Cambridge Blues, following the adoption of cigarette smoking by British soldiers returning from the Crimean War. The company opened its New York office in 1902 and soon became part of James Duke's American Tobacco Company monopoly.

Though Altria's headquarters are still in New York, in 2004 its Philip Morris USA division completed a move of its 682 New York based employees to Richmond, Virginia. Of the 682 offered relocation, only a handful accepted and relocated. Over 500 New York based employees accepted an early retirement or severance package and did not make the move to Richmond.

Board of directors

Current members of the board of directors of Altria Group are:

On May 1, 2006, Carlos Slim resigned from the board of directors. The board presently comprises eleven members.

Executive staff

Political influence

With $101,220,000 reported lobbying, Altria is the corporation with the biggest investment in influencing lawmakers in Washington.The Center for Public Integrity: Top 100 Companies and Organizations

Altria contributes to the furthering of opinions critical of the impact of global warming and climate change, through the funding of astroturf organization such as The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition.

In December 1992, the US Environmental Protection Agency published a 500-page report called Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking. It found that "the widespread exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) in the United States presents a serious and substantial public health impact. In adults: ETS is a human lung carcinogen, responsible for approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths annually in US non-smokers. In children: ETS exposure is causally associated with an increased risk of lower respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia. This report estimates that 150,000 to 300,000 cases annually in infants and young children up to 18 months of age are attributable to ETS."
Had it not been for the settlement of a major class action against the tobacco companies in the US, we would never have been able to see what happened next. But in 1998 they were forced to publish their internal documents and post them on the internet.
Within two months of its publication, Philip Morris, the world's biggest tobacco firm, had devised a strategy for dealing with the passive-smoking report. In February 1993 Ellen Merlo, its senior vice-president of corporate affairs, sent a letter to William I Campbell, Philip Morris's chief executive officer and president, explaining her intentions: "Our overriding objective is to discredit the EPA report ... Concurrently, it is our objective to prevent states and cities, as well as businesses, from passive-smoking bans."
To this end, she had hired a public relations company called APCO. She had attached the advice it had given her. APCO warned that: "No matter how strong the arguments, industry spokespeople are, in and of themselves, not always credible or appropriate messengers."
So the fight against a ban on passive smoking had to be associated with other people and other issues. Philip Morris, APCO said, needed to create the impression of a "grassroots" movement - one that had been formed spontaneously by concerned citizens to fight "overregulation". It should portray the danger of tobacco smoke as just one "unfounded fear" among others, such as concerns about pesticides and cellphones. APCO proposed to set up "a national coalition intended to educate the media, public officials and the public about the dangers of 'junk science'. Coalition will address credibility of government's scientific studies, risk-assessment techniques and misuse of tax dollars ... Upon formation of Coalition, key leaders will begin media outreach, eg editorial board tours, opinion articles, and brief elected officials in selected states."
APCO would found the coalition, write its mission statements, and "prepare and place opinion articles in key markets". For this it required $150,000 for its own fees and $75,000 for the coalition's costs.
By May 1993, as another memo from APCO to Philip Morris shows, the fake citizens' group had a name: the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition. It was important, further letters stated, "to ensure that TASSC has a diverse group of contributors"; to "link the tobacco issue with other more 'politically correct' products"; and to associate scientific studies that cast smoking in a bad light with "broader questions about government research and regulations" - such as "global warming", "nuclear waste disposal" and "biotechnology". APCO would engage in the "intensive recruitment of high-profile representatives from business and industry, scientists, public officials, and other individuals interested in promoting the use of sound science".
By September 1993, APCO had produced a "Plan for the Public Launching of TASSC". The media launch would not take place in "Washington, DC or the top media markets of the country. Rather, we suggest creating a series of aggressive, decentralised launches in several targeted local and regional markets across the country. This approach ... avoids cynical reporters from major media: less reviewing/challenging of TASSC messages."
The media coverage, the public relations company hoped, would enable TASSC to "establish an image of a national grassroots coalition". In case the media asked hostile questions, APCO circulated a sheet of answers, drafted by Philip Morris. The first question was:
"Isn't it true that Philip Morris created TASSC to act as a front group for it?
"A: No, not at all. As a large corporation, PM belongs to many national, regional, and state business, public policy, and legislative organisations. PM has contributed to TASSC, as we have with various groups and corporations across the country."[1]

Notes

  1. ^ George Monbiot "The denial industry" The Guardian