"Huge Opportunity for Synergies"

Commonwealth - Altadis exec details activities as merge completes

Linda Abu-Shalback Zid, Senior Editor

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The new year has also meant some new beginnings at Commonwealth – Altadis Inc. In November, it was announced that the company would be formed from the integration of Altadis USA and Commonwealth Brands, two Imperial Tobacco Group (ITG) companies.

And earlier this month, Kevin Freudenthal, formerly of Altria Group Inc. and U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co., was announced as president and CEO for Commonwealth - Altadis and region director for the Americas at ITG -- succeeding Graham Bolt, who retired from the company at the end of December.

Russ Mancuso, senior vice president of national accounts, spoke with Tobacco E-News late last year about some of the changes the company is undergoing.

The two companies officially began operating "as one" on November 7th, and despite the streamlining of processes, Mancuso said, "Everyone in the sales area was retained, which is great news -- unlike what you hear in a lot of the industry today."

He added that the company now has more than 50 people who are national account personnel. "We literally took both of the account teams from Commonwealth and Altadis and combined them, creating a larger, more efficient national accounts team. We're much stronger from the standpoint of more individuals, the ability to cover more accounts and we retain all that knowledge and experience in cigarettes, cigars and OTP," he said.

The 24-person customer service department, which also falls under Mancuso's purview, will be located in both the company's Fort Lauderdale, Fla., headquarters and in its facility in McAdoo, Penn. "Again, the retention of the knowledge and ability to handle our customers is being maintained because we are keeping both organizations."

While Mancuso will handle major chains, national distributors and customer service, Paul Matthews will now oversee the company's approximately 600-person sales force and retail distributors, Mancuso said.

He added that the integration would give the company the ability to offer more comprehensive programs, provide a "huge opportunity for synergies" and allow for better coverage with key chains and distributors.

Other integration at the sales administration, information technology and business intelligence departments are expected to be completed by the first quarter of this year.

Mancuso added, "Imperial Tobacco is committed to the U.S. market, and I think that shows in the investment they're putting into bringing the companies together, investing in brands and investing in people."

Commonwealth – Altadis Inc.'s signature brands include USA Gold, Fortuna and Sonoma cigarettes, and Phillies, Dutch Masters, Backwoods and White Cat cigars.