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Rizla and Golden Virginia-owner poaches car exec as new CEO

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
A packet of Rizla Blue cigarette papers and a pouch of Golden Virginia tobacco. Photo: Newscast/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Tobacco giant Imperial Brands (IMB.L) on Monday named car executive Stefan Bomhard as its new chief executive.

Bomhard, who currently runs high-end car retailer Inchcape, will take over from Alison Cooper, who announced plans to leave last October. Cooper will step down with immediate effect, Imperial said.

“Stefan has significant experience across multiple consumer sectors and within large multinational organisations, particularly in brand building and consumer-led sales and marketing,” said Imperial chair Thérèse Esperdy.

Bomhard has run Inchcape for five years but previously held senior roles at Cadbury, Unilever, Burger King, and Procter & Gamble.

“I’m delighted to be joining Imperial as the next chief executive,” said Bomhard. “I believe the business has a great future and I’m looking forward to working with the group’s employees to maximise the opportunities that lie ahead and build a stronger, more sustainable business.”

READ MORE: Tobacco giant 'welcomes' US flavoured vape ban

Esperdy said Bomhard was selected “after a thorough search process, which attracted strong, high calibre interest”. His appointment comes at a time when Imperial is trying to navigate declining smoking rates at the rising in vaping.

Imperial Brands is best known in the UK for its Golden Virginia loose tobacco and Rizla rolling papers. It also owns cigarette brands such as Kool, Winston, and Davidoff.

Tobacco companies around the world are facing headwinds from falling smoking rates and the growth of new vaping brands, such as American startup Juul.

Imperial has its own vaping brand, Blu, but the sector has suffered from a regulatory crackdown in the US. Imperial’s profits dropped by 8.7% last year and the share price has declined more than 20% over the last 12 months.

“Stefan takes on the chief executive role at a significant point in Imperial’s development and the Board is confident that his experience and expertise will drive the business forward,” Esperdy said.

Shares in Imperial (IMB.L) rose 0.7% on Monday and shares in Inchcape (INCH.L) were down 0.1%.

READ MORE: Tobacco giant's stock crashes on vaping crackdown warning