RICHMOND, Va. -- Tobacco product marketer Altria Group Inc. announced Feb. 1 that CEO Marty Barrington will retire later this year at age 65, after more than 25 years with the company, including six years as chairman and CEO. The company's board has elected Howard Willard, 54, to serve as Altria's chairman and CEO, effective May 17. The board also elected Willard to Altria's board of directors, effective Feb. 1.
Willard has served in numerous senior leadership roles during his 25-year career at the company, including his current position of COO and prior roles as CFO and executive vice president of strategy and business development.
Additionally, the board elected Billy Gifford, 47, to serve as Altria's vice chairman and CFO, also effective May 17. Gifford's 23-year career includes his current position as Altria's CFO and prior roles as Altria's senior vice president, strategy and business development, and president and CEO of Philip Morris USA.
"It has been an enormous privilege to lead our great company with a talented leadership team and terrific employees," Barrington said. "Howard has been essential to that team and is immensely qualified and ready to take Altria forward when I step away in May. Billy likewise has been an essential contributor to our strategies and successful operating performance. Together, they have the confidence of me and the Board of Directors to continue Altria's enduring success."
"The board is grateful for Marty's extraordinary leadership the last several years, as Altria has outperformed our competitive benchmarks," said Thomas Farrell, the presiding director of the company. "Our election of Howard as the next chairman and CEO is the result of our long-term succession planning process. We believe he has the proven leadership skills, track record and strategic mindset to lead the next chapter of Altria's remarkable story."
Willard said he is honored to follow Barrington in the company's lead role.
"He leads the company with decisive leadership and clarity, and during the past six years of his leadership, the company has been tremendously successful," Willard said. "I look forward to building on that success with Billy Gifford, our strong management team and our talented employees to continue to generate consistent growth and long-term value for our shareholders."
Altria Group is based in Richmond, Va. Its wholly owned subsidiaries include Philip Morris USA Inc., U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. LLC, John Middleton Co., Sherman Group Holdings LLC and its subsidiaries, Nu Mark LLC, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates Ltd. and Philip Morris Capital Corp. Altria holds an equity investment in Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV.