One + One = Three'

Altadis USA, Commonwealth Brands integrate sales, marketing units to improve service

Linda Abu-Shalback Zid, Senior Editor

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Altadis USA announced yesterday that it is integrating sales and marketing units with those of Commonwealth Brands to form one unified team. "It combines two of Imperial Tobacco's assets into what we hope will be a better, combined company. One plus one, hopefully, equals three." Eric Workman, senior vice president of marketing for Altadis, told CSP Daily News.

As reported yesterday in a Morgan Keegan/CSP Daily News Flash, the goal of the integration, which kicked off this week, is to provide greater sales coverage and more comprehensive [image-nocss] service to customers--with both cigarettes and cigars.

On the cigar side, Workman said, the company's sales force of about 200 people was smaller compared with competitor sales forces. The integration brings that number to 800, now making it one of the larger forces.

For cigarettes, the company is hoping to capitalize on the cigar side's "long-established relationships from brands with solid market shares," Workman said. "So we hope to be able to use those relationships and help the cigarette side along."

Another benefit of the integration is that while both companies are "fairly regional" in their sales, "fortunately, the regions don't perfectly align," he said. "And there's some opportunities on each others' backs."

The companies have been considering the integration over the past year, according to Workman. Next steps include integration of computer systems to a uniform platform and then combining other functional operations. The hope is for complete integration in the next six months to one year.

Workman said Altadis Group had gone through a similar integration with Hav-A-Tampa/Phillies Cigar Corp. in 2001. "There's always issues, and there's always hurdles and obstacles. What it comes down to is the people who are charged with overcoming those obstacles."

And he was confident about those handling the integration. "I think we're fortunate on both sides that there's real quality people who are leading this. Hopefully, the troops up and down the line will be as absolutely supportive as the leadership is."Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Altadis U.S.A. is a leader in the U.S. mass-market cigar category. Altadis manufactures and markets brands such as Dutch Masters, Backwoods, Phillies, White Cat and Antonio Y Cleopatra and many others.Commonwealth Brands' cigarettes include Davidoff, Sonoma, Montclair and USA Gold. Its portfolio of tobaccos consists of the Premier, McClintock, Rave and Bali Shag brands. Based in Goodlettsville, Tenn., it employs more than 900 people across all 50 states.